After noticing a Twitter conversation mentioning Common Craft, I met Chris Johnson of Simplifilm.
Last week Chris posted a blog post that provides a look at his position regarding Common Craft and Common Craft Style videos in the context of other producers. The post is called: Have Your Own Style (What Happens When We're Asked to Make a Common Craft Video). Chris writes:
They have their niche and nobody good would ever copy their style. Common Craft should be the only people that make a cut-out-videos-that-explain software or web services. Anything else is an echo.
If a client asked, we’d say no. It’d be an admission of creative bankruptcy to try to mimic the very clear, original style that CommonCraft uses.
First, I want to thank Chris for standing up for our work so publicly. I like that Chris’ perspective is not about legal ramifications so much as recognizing another company’s work and making a conscious choice to take a different creative direction. In some ways, it’s how the world should work.
The fact is, there are many videos out there that could be called “Common Craft Style” - we see them all the time. Like Chris, people sometimes expect us to be up-in-arms about other producers who take inspiration from, or even directly copy our work. While plagiarism and trademark infringement is unacceptable, we recognize that there is a gray area and always appreciate attribution if our work is indeed an inspiration. It's this gray area that makes our position on Common Craft Style a bit complicated.
Example: Educational Use
Teachers and students are currently working on what they call “Common Craft Style” videos in classrooms. These are often middle and high school students making videos that help them learn about history, for example. While we are not involved in any way, we have always encouraged teachers to take inspiration from our work in school projects.
Here's an example created by Wendy Drexler:
Here's another made by 8th graders that makes me LOL:
As we mentioned, the existence of these projects makes having an absolute position on Common Craft Style difficult, as we are very supportive of these educational, classroom-oriented videos.
Years ago, we decided that the best thing we can do is focus our attention on building our brand and making the best possible videos. Our goal has always been to create a brand of videos that speaks for itself and I think we’re getting close.
There will always be the company, producer or agency who chooses to make a video in “Common Craft Style”. Sure, you could say they’re copying us. You could say that we need to stop them. But as Chris’ blog post shows, the market has a way of recognizing and even protecting unique and valuable creations. Here's what I mean...
Rock and Roll
Chris quotes Scott Ginsberg in his post, “There are no cover-bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” While this may be true, that building is filled with individuals who were inspired-by and copied the techniques of others. Even though Chuck Berry inspired Elvis Presley, there will only ever be one Chuck Berry. And maybe that’s the lesson here.
More than anything, we want to see video explanations become the next rock-and-roll. We want our little industry to grow and for talented producers to build careers on using videos to explain and educate. And for that to happen, the environment needs to encourage producers who take inspiration, but also find responsible ways to make their own creative contribution.
We’ll always protect our brand and appreciate attribution where it's appropriate. But at the end of the day, we want to be the people who help inspire the next Hall of Fame inductee, not stand in their way.
If you’re considering a Common Craft video, please contact us.