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Q&A with Lee LeFever

Video producer & co-founder of Common Craft

My name is Lee LeFever and I run Common Craft, a company that produces ready-made videos and visuals that are used by educators in classrooms and on the Web. I'm also the author of The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand.

How did you get started Common Craft, what is your background?

In 2007 we started making animated videos with the specific goal explaining things like RSS and Wikis "in Plain English". These early videos were viral hits and led to us (my wife and I) becoming full time video producers. Those first videos have become known as the first "explainer" videos. Since then, our videos have been viewed over 50 million times.

Despite being in the business of educational videos, neither of us have any formal experience in education or video production.

Where did you study? Looking back, would you recommend your path to beginners?

I'm nearly 100% self-taught when it comes to making media and I wouldn't want it any other way. When we first got started, we didn't take classes or read books, we just made videos the best we could with what we had. We solved problems as they needed to be solved. That meant making a video and saying "what sucks the most about this?" Then, we'd figure out how to fix it for the next video. Over time, we developed a process that is custom-built for our needs.

What are the books helped you to improve your professional skills?

A few that I read early on influenced how we thought about our work and our business:

  • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
  • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
  • 3 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

What is your ideal work environment? Do you work at studio / office or prefer to mix a few activities?

My work happens at home. I have a home office that is my go-to place, but I move around the house some too. We've been really intentional about designing Common Craft around the lives we want to live and that means, in part, working from home and staying a small, independent company.

Who are the people in Seattle or outside, colleagues you admire most?

There are a few folks that I like as people and admire as colleagues that are related to what I do. Dan Roam, Austin Kleon, Dave Gray, Jessica Hagy, Sunni Brown, Nancy Duarte, Josh Kalven.