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The Art of Explanation


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Table of Contents

Preface xi Author Note xv Introduction xvii PART 1 Plan 1 Chapter 1 Learning to Run 3 Chapter 2 What Is an Explanation? 7 What Is Not An Explanation 8 Defining Explanation 9 Explanations Require Empathy 10 Act and Art 11 Look at Your Fish 12 Explanation Lowers the Cost of Understanding 13 An Explanation Is a Way to Package Ideas 14 Explanations Answer the Question ??Why??? 16 Explanations Make People Care 16 Chapter 3 Why Explanations Fail 23 All About Confidence 24 Assumptions Cause Failure 24 Words Can Hurt 26 We Lack Understanding 27 We Want to Appear Smart 28 The Direct Approach?No Context 30 Summary 32 Chapter 4 Planning Your Explanations 33 Identifying Explanation Problems 34 PART 2 Package 43 Chapter 5 Packaging Ideas 45 Stepping Outside the Bubble 46 What Goes into the Packaging? 48 Chapter 6 Context 51 Forest then Trees 53 Solving the Context Problem 56 Context in Explanation?We Can All Agree 61 Context and Pain 63 Example: Google Docs 63 On the Explanation Scale 65 Summary 66 Chapter 7 Story 67 Stories Versus Facts 68 But I?m Not a Storyteller 69 Common Craft and Stories 71 The Simple Ingredient: People 73 Using Stories in Explanation 74 Basic Story Format 75 When Does Storytelling Not Work? 77 Personification and Story 79 On the Explanation Scale 81 Summary 81 Chapter 8 Connections 83 Connecting Your Long Lost Uncle?Old Versus New 84 Building-on Versus Establishing 87 Analogy 89 Common Craft Videos 90 On the Explanation Scale 92 Summary 92 Chapter 9 Description 93 Explaining Web Browsers 95 Explanation Is Not a Recipe 97 On The Explanation Scale 99 Summary 99 Chapter 10 Simplification 103 Chapter 11 Constraints 113 Common Craft and Constraints 115 Constraints and Your Explanations 117 Summary 119 Chapter 12 Preparing for and Writing an Explanation 121 The Common Craft Writing Process 122 Big Ideas 123 Research and Discovery 123 Script Writing 125 The Real Thing 128 Chapter 13 Bringing an Explanation Together 131 PART 3 Present 147 Chapter 14 Common Craft?s Lessons Learned 149 Common Craft Gets Started 149 Ten Lessons Learned from Common Craft Explanations 151 Chapter 15 Right Medium for the Message 157 A Transformation 158 Media Options 159 Presentation Modes 161 Recording and Distribution Options 164 Constraints Come to the Rescue 165 Summary 171 Chapter 16 Visuals 173 You Can Use Visuals 178 Dan Roam?s 6 x 6 Rule 178 Common Craft Visual Metaphors 186 Noise and Simplicity in Visuals 188 Infographics 191 Creating Digital Visuals 193 Summary 193 Chapter 17 Emma and Carlos 195 Epilogue 202 Chapter 18 Explanation Culture and Your Life as an Explainer 203 Your Life as An Explainer 206 Acknowledgments 209 Links to Common Craft Videos 211 About the Author 215 Bibliography 217 Index 219

About the Author

LEE LeFEVER is the Chief Explainer, illustrator, and voice of Common Craft, and is widely credited for inspiring the video explanation industry. Since 2007, the company has won numerous awards and has created explanations for the world's most respected brands, including Intel, Google, Dropbox, and Ford. Its online videos have been viewed more than 50 million times. Today, Common Craft's mission is to make the world a more understandable place to live and work by inspiring and equipping professionals to become explanation specialists. Lee can be found in Seattle, Washington, with his wife and business partner, Sachi, and their dog, Bosco, a fine swimmer.

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