Lee LeFever is the co-founder of Common Craft and author of The Art of Explanation. Since 2007, Common Craft has won numerous awards, created explanations for the world’s most respected brands and created explainer videos that have earned over 50 million online video views. Today, Common Craft produces educational guides, ready-made videos and visuals that are used by educators in over 50 countries. Lee and his wife Sachi are Common Craft’s only employees and live in Seattle where they both love the rain.
The first “explainer” of the YouTube era
Lee started creating explainer videos in 2003. At that time, social media was very new and was getting popular but people couldn’t explain why it mattered. He created a series of 3-minute videos such as “RSS in plain English.” In these videos, Lee explained using paper cuts how new technologies worked. These videos went viral in 2007, and due to all this pioneering work someone by Wiley approached him about the idea of writing a book.
The art of explanation
Explanation is a skill, but you do it so often that you don’t recognize that you can improve it. It’s like thinking that “running is just running.” Explanation and communication are like running, skills that can be improved.
The art of explanation has three steps: Plan, Prepare, and Perform. One of the big ideas in the book is “the curse of knowledge”. The more you know about a subject, the harder it is to imagine what is not knowing it. In order to counter the curse of knowledge, take your time to know your audience very well.
Work as educators
Many of Common Craft videos have been used to promote products and companies (e.g. Dropbox, Twitter). However, Lee and Sachi consider themselves educators, they don’t want to be marketers. Many people in the educational world (teachers, lecturers, trainers) benefit with Common Craft’s work.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Richard Feyman
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
Routine to Shine
If you’re confused about something or you need to explain something to someone else and you’re confused, do the following. Take a few moments and write down. Pretend that you’re writing a letter to someone. The act of writing will show what you know and what you don’t know. That will help you to explain things better.
P.S. If you liked this episode, you might enjoy subscribing to our mailing list. Also, I’d appreciate if you write a review in iTunes or Stitcher. Your reviews will encourage me and will help other people to find the podcast. Thank you!