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Summary:

Paper cutouts and clarity are what Common Craft Productions sells in video form. In a world of big ideas and small attention spans, founders Lee and Sachi LeFever’s Common Craft Show covers topics ranging from wikis to compact fluorescent light bulbs to zombies. By dissecting the […]

Paper cutouts and clarity are what Common Craft Productions sells in video form. In a world of big ideas and small attention spans, founders Lee and Sachi LeFever’s Common Craft Show covers topics ranging from wikis to compact fluorescent light bulbs to zombies. By dissecting the intricacies of web 2.0 services, Common Craft is able to reduce nebulous Internet technologies down to snappy, three-minute videos.

“Oftentimes we’re hired because someone has a great product but are having difficulty getting the average person to understand it,” Lee LeFever explained in an interview with NewTeeVee. Complexity, he said, is the LeFevers’ biggest challenge. But making sense of it is clearly their greatest skill. Their videos are immensely accessible and educational, not to mention entertaining. Their subject matter comes to life as if the Worst Case Scenario people made pop-up guide books.

Using a white board and paper cutouts, Common Craft has created a format they call “paperworks.” Six months ago, they put up their first paperworks video, RSS In Plain English. “We gave away something for free that was branded. We took the risk to produce something and then just gave it away,” Lee said of Common Craft’s guerrilla self-marketing. Soon afterwards, the phone calls started. They’ve now done videos for the likes of Google Docs, Wetpaint Wikis, and My Gads and is booked, Lee said, into next year. While prices vary, Lee says each video costs in the five-figure range.

Common Craft, founded in 2003 and based in Seattle, is the LeFevers’ full-time job. Lee is adamant that Common Craft is dedicated to being a boutique company and the LeFevers’ are very hands on in their work — literally. Any time there is writing you’re seeing Sachi’s hands, otherwise, they belong to Lee.

The Common Craft Show already has a number of admirers, including Kelly Stewart, who on his blog Cinnamon Pants has posted two great spoofs/homages to the paperworks of the LeFevers. The spoofs focus on the nuances and nuisances of “new media douchebaggery.” Just check out the embed below for an explanation and make sure to catch Stewart’s tribute to Miss Teen South Carolina as well.

While each video takes a tedious 30-40 hours to produce, Lee is excited about all of the work they are getting. He sees his videos providing a real service to both companies and consumers. “The way most people deal with complexity is adding information, adding information and going into things more,” he said. “In a video we look to see what we can remove — what parts can we remove to just leave the big ideas?”

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  1. Mark Schoneveld Wednesday, October 31, 2007

    Cool! I’m a big fan of Common Craft, just spent a goodly bit of time the other day watching a bunch of their vids. Thanks for the profile!

  2. XLNTads Blog » Blog Archive » Creative Inspiration: Common Craft Wednesday, October 31, 2007

    [...] always have to have actors, a set and expensive props to make a compelling message. Common Craft is inspiring us all by making brand messages in the form of papercraft cutouts. Their videos are straight-forward, [...]

  3. Valleywag has a reasonable (go figure) criticism of the Google Docs video today. They have a point about using office jargon words like “documents” as plain English.

    http://valleywag.com/tech/i-hate-it-here/new-media-douchebags-in-plain-english-317069.php

  4. NewTeeVee article mentions Cinnamon Pants » Cinnamon Pants Saturday, November 3, 2007

    [...] you to writer/blogger Craig Rubens for his blurb on Cinnamon Pants in an article about Lee and Sachi LeFever’s Common Craft [...]

  5. Plain English in Plain English – NewTeeVee Station Thursday, August 28, 2008

    [...] Plain English is a hit by YouTube entertainment standards (5,000+ subscribers, several vids with six-figure views), but its real success is with private clients. The creators, Sachi and Lee LeFever, also create videos for successful tech companies (LinkedIn, Meetup, and Google, etc), as well as for cities and nonprofits that have complicated messages to deliver, e.g., California School Finance in Plain English and Vancouver’s I-Move in Plain English. (Check out Craig Rubens’ interview with Lee LeFever.) [...]

  6. If this takes 30-40 hours to produce, why is pricing in the $10,000+ realm? Is there anyone out there who’ll work for a reasonable rate? I suppose once the field becomes scattered with many folks doing this kind of work that prices will become affordable for small businesses. But I like what I see so far.

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