Idea Blog

PICK OF THE WEEK: The Death of Bees (Explainer)

Blake Harris 07.15.2015

With so much great work being done in the animation and explanation spaces, we thought it would be valuable if, each week, we shined the spotlight on an impressive piece of work. This week’s selection is a gorgeous explainer video by a Munich-based design studio called Kurzgesagt (which is German for “in a nutshell”).

Kurzgesagt was founded in 2013 by a team of designers, journalists and musicians whose mission is to “make science look beautiful…because it is beautiful.” To this end, they create one video per month to explain things like “like evolution, time, space, global energy or our existence in this strange universe.” And this month, the studio released a 6-minute explainer highlighting the ongoing bee crisis. Here’s the video:


1. Framing of Issue: Instead of simply drawing attention to the situation–or earning sympathy for an abstract cause–the video frame the issue in terms that apply to. By saying things like “one of out three meals eaten by humans is made possible by bees” and using intuitive visuals like this…

Eating Bees

the explainer demonstrates what WE have to lose and why WE actually should care. And to hammer home the point, it also makes strong use of metaphor (to highlight the interconnectedness we might not notice and how it risks toppling if not fixed):


2. Using Animation to Set ExpectationsTowards the end of the video, the narrator talks about “even more factors contributing to the demise of bees.” But instead of simply listing these off willy-nilly (which might cause a viewer to lose interest or wonder “how many more is he going to mention?!), this video sets out expectations in a clever way. It begins with this image, of a deceased bee surrounded by five circles:

Bee Demise

Seconds later we realize that these five circles are actually going to represent five different factors, each thumbnailed with a tiny image as the narrator lists off the hazards. Not only does this add a lively element as each circled is “filled in” like this…

Using Visuals to Set Expectations

…but it also creates a subtle sense of excitement while that occurs. What imagine will be next? How will be it represented? And, while doing that, it also properly sets our expectations (as we know this list won’t go on forever, but just for the duration of these five examples).

3. A Distinct Visual Style: Although the images drawn on screen are rather diverse (i.e. bees, fruits, Albert Einstein etc.) there’s a common aesthetic thread that runs throughout the explainer and makes it all feel cohesively part of the same video. Much of this is accomplished through its stylized visual palette (centered around a soft orange), but also through a consistent look (that balances a cartoonish playfulness with a non-abstract graveness). Why is this important, you might ask? Well, it’s not necessarily so; but in this case–and particularly with a video of this length (6 minutes)–it helps create a feeling that disparate sections of the film are connected. It creates a sense that this…

Example 1

and this…

Example 2

and also even this…

Example 3

and all part of the same larger message. And not only does that help hold a viewer’s attention, but it also makes that larger message that much more effective. Which, at the end of the day, is what an explainer video is all about.


Blake Harris

Blake Harris

Blake Harris is the author of "Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation."
Blake Harris

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