Storytelling to Explain Complex Concepts

Comments (8)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the value of visual storytelling for explaining complex concepts.

What could be more complex and incomprehensible than our current economic crisis? Jonathan Jarvis uses story to explain in a video, “Crisis of Credit Visualized.” Jarvis completed the project as part of his thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

The video has been highly touted on the Internet as doing a great job of explaining the crisis. It’s a bit long (11 minutes) for a video, and I experienced a few audio hiccups, but I agree that it’s informative storytelling. On YouTube, the video is broken into two parts. I’ve embedded Part 1 below, but you can see part 2 here.


It’s informative. It’s useful. It’s fun to watch. It’s a great video experience. It’s educational. It’s a way to understand a complex subject. It should be seen by many people. It’s something that I am glad that I watched. It’s something that deserves attention.

It doesn’t need to tagged as storytelling to make it valuable. It stands well on it’s own as a powerful video that serves a good purpose. It has value as art in its use of video.

If everything is storytelling, then nothing is storytelling.

It’s not storytelling.

A hammer is no less a valuable tool just because it’s not a screwdriver.

This vide doesn’t have to be storytelling in order to still be excellent.

And it is excellent.

Thanks, as always, Sean, for your perspective.

I came across this video because many folks on Twitter touted it as great storytelling.

When I watched it, I asked myself (as I do everything I evaluate for this blog): “Is it storytelling?” I wasn’t sure; yet I stated in my entry, “I agree that it’s informative storytelling.”

You said: “This video doesn’t have to be storytelling in order to still be excellent.”

True, but if it’s not storytelling, it probably doesn’t belong in A Storied Career.

What do others think?


As always, my comments are never a criticism of you personally or your website. I love what you do and you are probably the most consistent blogger of story out there. Thanks for your service to the community.

You have illustrated the issue: What is storytelling? For me, it takes people. I have videos on YouTube of me doing storytelling, but the videos are not storytelling. They are video records of my storytelling and they pale by compare to the video quality and technique of the above video you posted.

I think we do a disservice to both storytelling expertise and video expertise by not treating each to its own unique charism and definition.

I can talk about the financial crisis by retelling (speaking) the stories of others or using world tales to illustrate the meaning. A program of these stories, used to frame the video above, would be a powerful evening of conveying an idea through the dual communication methods of storytelling and video.

If I had to attach a shelf to a wall, I would have different tools to choose from based on how I wanted the shelf attached. I could use a hammer, screwdriver or glue gun, for example. Each is a different way of getting to the same goal.

If I had to talk about the financial crisis, I could choose different tools based on how I wanted the audience to understand the issue. I could use oral storytelling, writing, video or dance. Each is a different way of getting to the same goal.

I shall stop rambling now.


I believe this IS storytelling. The creators render a complex idea into characters who interact in a plot that has a beginning, middle, and end. Story can be told visually as well as verbally. To limit storytelling only to words spoken about people and to eliminate video forms of storytelling is to eliminate a universe of story. Are stories told on NPR not storytelling because they use the unique art of radio broadcast? What of stories told by Clint Eastwood in cinema?

BTW, this example of storytelling is reminiscent of the original fireside chat by FDR, in which he verbally walked Americans through the foundering bankikng system. You may listen to it here:

hey Kathy - snap:) (

if you want to embed the full video you can find the here it via Jonathan’s vimeo page:

Thanks, Steve, for the vote of confidence and the link to the fireside chat.

Thanks, Natalie, for sharing the link to the full video.

Dear Kathy, I loved reading some of your posts, especially this one, I’m not much of a writer but it was really intriguing to read about them :) Anyway I hope this isnt inappropiate, but I would love it if you can have a look at my site, its a community i built for job seekers to share tips and helpeachother find jobs, I would love it if you could spend a few mins and join us and maybe share a tip or two, anyway thanks for your time and keep up the great work!

Thanks, William, for the kind words. I took a quick look at your site, and it looks great. Perhaps we can publicize it on Quintessential Careers and our blogs that are more job-related than this one.

A Storied Career

A Storied Career explores intersections/synthesis among various forms of
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Dr. Kathy Hansen

Kathy Hansen, PhD, is a leading proponent of deploying storytelling for career advancement. She is an author and instructor, in addition to being a career guru. More...


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