The Common Craft Blog

This blog is where we announce new videos & talk about the power of explanation & the change it can create. 

Book Review - In a Common Craft Style Video

Posted by: leelefever on September 29, 2014- 12:06pm


Topic: Art of Explanation

Categories: book, book review, common craft style, video

I love this. Bruce Herwig, a reader of The Art of Explanation, decided to review the book by creating a Common Craft Style video. He even provided "5 lessons I Learned in Making a Common Craft Style Video" in the blog post. Thanks Bruce!

Reading in email? Watch the video here.

Learn more about Common Craft Cut-outs

An Animated Interview by GoAnimate

Posted by: leelefever on September 23, 2014- 10:36am


Topic: GoAnimate and Common Craft

Categories: animation, goanimate, interview, video

We're big fans of GoAnimate. They make it easy for anyone to create animated videos - even using Common Craft Cut-outs.  

Recently they asked about doing an interview with me, but not just any interview. They wanted to make the interview look like an animated talk show. This is where their service really shines.

We talked about my family's business in NC, how Sachi and I get along and of course, explainer videos. The video below was made with GoAnimate - and you can make videos just like it.  

Viewing in email? Watch the video here.

Learn more about how you can create Common Craft Style videos with GoAnimate

The War on Drugs Explained with Dragons

Posted by: leelefever on September 16, 2014- 12:23pm


Topic: Art of Explanation

Categories: abstraction, drugs, explainer tip, Explanation, vox

One of the tools we use in creating explainer videos is abstraction.  We look for opportunities to take the ideas that we want to explain out of their normal circumstance and put them into a new world. An example is our video that explains social media. It's a big analogy about ice cream.  Instead of talking about the details of tools and use cases, we showed what happens when everyone can make their own flavors. 

By abstracting an idea, we work to free it of all the details, biases and baggage that comes with the real world situation. Instead, we use symbols, metaphors and analogies to relate higher level ideas. It's these idea that have the power to create understanding.  Once understanding is in place, then the details make more sense. 

Vox pointed me to a video that was sponsored by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that is a great example of abstraction. Rather than using real world examples, they use a fictional story about how a society dealt with a dragon called Drugo. The video is called The War on Drugo.  Watch:

Reading in email? Watch the video here.

The next time you're struggling to make an idea easy to understand, consider the power of abstraction. Look for ways to take the big ideas out of the real world and put them in a world that highlights them without all the baggage. 

ExplainerGIFs: What They Are, Why They Matter

Posted by: leelefever on September 8, 2014- 9:56pm


Topic: ExplainerGIFs

Categories: animation, explainergifs, Explanation, GIFs, powerpoint, screencasting

This post is based on a more comprehensive article I wrote called Welcome to the Next Golden Age of Animated GIFs.

Animated GIFs are fascinating. These silent, looping, video-like experiences are popping up all over the web, much like they did in the 90s. But this time, it's different. Animated GIFs can now be created by anyone and we're seeing them used in new and interesting ways. 

You've probably seen animated GIFs used for entertainment or highlights: 


But have you considered how animated GIFs can be used for communication and explanation?  Consider the example below by John Reid which explains pi:


Or this one by NickolayS that explains how a sewing machine works:

The examples above illustrate that the animated GIF format has real power when it comes to communication. Part of the reason is the GIF format is just as shareable as any digital image. Unlike online video, they work almost anywhere an image can be displayed. No plug-ins, no device restrictions, no worries.


I've been experimenting with creating my own animated GIFs using PowerPoint and screencasting software.  You might have seen them at work in the Common Craft Soccer GuideI call them ExplainerGIFs. Like an explainer video, it's an animated GIF that is designed to make an idea understandable. Below is a simple example that explains the water cycle:

You Can Make Animated GIFs

What I've learned is that these animated GIFs are quite easy to create - and I want to show you how. This fall I will be sharing everything I've learned about creating ExplainerGIFs using simple and affordable tools. If you'd like to be notified when it's ready, sign up for a notification at

Here are some examples of what's possible:

Animated Venn Diagrams:

Animated Charts and Graphs

Animated Processes and Flows

Animated Conversations and People

Learn more and sign up for notifications at  

To learn more about the evolution of animated GIFs, read The Next Golden Age of Animated GIFs.