A few weeks ago we spoke at Amplify Festival in Australia and one of the most memorable events of the conference was called “BrightSparks”, produced by the indomitable conference organizer Annalie Killian. A few hundred people crowded into a bar to watch 18 PhD students pitch their ideas for 2.5 minutes each. Sachi was one of five judges who helped award $5,000 to the winner. Leading up to this event, we led workshops and spoke about the need for explanation and the goal to increase... Continue Reading
I will bet you know people who need this video. It's designed to relate the basic ideas behind resolution and pixels in digital images. This video follows the story of Neil, who learns why he can’t enlarge and print a photo that was taken with his phone. Using an analogy of a blanket, the video illustrates what happens when a small image is enlarged and what’s needed for printing larger photos. It teaches: The basics of pixels in digital images Why a digital image with a small number of... Continue Reading
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... Continue Reading
I’m sure you know a friend or relative who has strongly-held opinions about a subject and is convinced that their position is right. But when asked about specifics, it becomes clear that they lack a basic understanding of the working parts that back-up that position. A recent article by Tania Lombrozo, PhD., a cognitive scientist at UC Berkeley, highlights what causes these extreme positions and what can be done to moderate them. Lombrozo’s article is based on a recent paper by psychologist... Continue Reading
We hear a lot about design these days. Apple products are probably the most popular examples. The idea is that Apple became one of the most valuable companies in the world, in part, because they focus on the design of their products. But what does that mean, really? What do organizations who focus on design do differently? Recently the TV show 60 Minutes featured the design company IDEO, which was founded by David Kelley. At multiple points in the interview, Kelley mentions an idea that... Continue Reading
Think for just a minute about the skills you use every day at work. Maybe you’re a designer or engineer who had specialized training and tools. Maybe you’re an executive who has a talent for building teams. Or maybe you’re a Mom or Dad who works to help your child understand the world. No matter what you do for work, you are an explainer. Part of your job is helping others understand ideas - it’s a fundamental part of being a professional. We explain ideas every day - we just never think... Continue Reading
Joe Hanson at Itsoktobesmart.com shared this video and it made me laugh. A perfect satire of highly academic explanations.
Kottke reminded me this morning about this mid-century video that explains, very clearly, how a differential gear works in automobiles. Watch: Email readers can watch here. Notice how the video starts with a scene that everyone can grasp before going into more technical information. They focus on "why" before "how". The simple model they use to explain the mechanism is a great example of simplification. The "noise" of the actual gear is removed so the instructor can focus on the big ideas. A... Continue Reading
The hand-drawn visuals from our videos, what we call "Cut-outs", are now available to all Common Craft members. They are colorful, downloadable images for use in your presentations, videos and explanation projects. Cut-outs are organized into themes like people, workplace, transportation, technology, etc. We currently provide over 800 images and add more sets on a regular basis. Examples of a few themes: Our goal is to help you create your own explanations. But that's not all. We're... Continue Reading
Sachi and I are heading down to Austin, Texas for the SXSW Interactive Festival, March 7-12. After taking a few years off, we're excited to be heading back. I'm going to be doing a short "Future 15" talk on Monday, March 11th at 4pm about the Art of Explanation in Room 616AB. I know a Monday afternoon time is tough, but I would be honored if you could attend.