Matthew Monteith is a New York-based artist who had an idea for a photo series that captures people explaining artworks to others. Part of his motivation, according to this article on Flavorwire, was a fascination with explanation itself. What follows is my new favorite quote on the subject, by Monteith:
I am fascinated with the art of explanation, the moment when one individual, using their own knowledge of an object, both conceptual and historical takes on the task of animating that story and attempts to plant the seed of that idea into the minds of others. These ideas morph into new ideas and ultimately into new works.
I love it. The explainer's goal is to plant the seed of an idea into the minds of others. A few of Montheith's photos art explanation photos are below. You can find many more here.
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.
Thanks to John, Maureen and the folks at Sticker Giant for their help with these little guys. We're planning to carry them with us at conferences, etc. If you see us at SXSW or anywhere else, ask for one!
Would you like a sticker? Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:
A video that Saatchi Moscow created and produced for Google to attract more Russian people on GMail.
Visually, it's a bit like our videos, but in a giant format. Instead of pieces of paper, they are using giant pieces of pre-printed fabric. The video is quite artful and well done. Isn't it funny too, that it's by Saatchi and Saatchi instead of Lee and Sachi?