Monday, November 5, 2012

Common Craft Explains It All

Founded by Lee LeFever in 2003, Common Craft is a video production company that began as an online community consulting firm. While helping organizations with their online community strategies, he had to explain social concepts to his clients, so Lee wrote a couple of blog posts called “RSS in Plain English” and “Wikis in Plain English.” These posts subsequently became popular and made him realize that he had a knack for explaining complex topics to beginners.

In 2006, Lee had the idea of turning his “In Plain English” posts into videos. He started by standing in front of the camera with a whiteboard behind him but “felt like a complete dork.” His wife Sachi suggested pointing the camera down onto a whiteboard on the floor and using paper cut-outs and other props instead. In April of the following year, the LeFevers published their first video, “RSS in Plain English.” The video blew up, and it wasn't long before companies approached them for custom videos.

After Common Craft made “Google Docs in Plain English” for Google, Lee and Sachi “decided to drop everything and focus on nothing but videos.” Since then, the husband and wife team has created video explanations for Dropbox, Ford, Intel, LEGO, Microsoft, and more. “We recognized that this decision was a risk,” says Lee of the company's pivot. “We had no formal experience in education or video production, but it was the right thing to do. We're big fans of taking risks based on our gut feelings for opportunities.”

Today, in addition to working on custom video projects, Common Craft offers licensable videos that members can embed, download, and use in classrooms and business presentations. The company also has a cut-out library where members can download digital images to create their own Common Craft-style videos.

Over the years, Common Craft has earned a number of awards from the Internet and business communities, including the International Association of Business Communicators' Gold Quill and International Academy of Visual Arts' Communicator Excellence Award.

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