Definition • Techniques • Future

The Explainer Video


An explainer video is in the majority of the cases combining scripted narration and visual aid, either in form of a demonstration or graphic illustration. Adding up Stefanie Findeisen and Jürgen Seifrieds Work with Karsten Wolfs work on the topic we can define the explainer video as follows:


The explainer video is short (maximum 20 minutes).

Findeisen (2019)


The explainer video is a video.

Video is defined in contrast to other forms as follows:

1.  A video is inexpensively self-produced.

2. A video is available free of charge.

3. A video is published on online video platforms (e.g. YouTube).

Wolf (2015)


The explainer video explains content, concepts and contexts.

Explaining is defined as follows:

1. Explaining is the interaction between an explainer and at least one listener. 

2. Explaining addresses content that the listener(s) are initially unaware of. The explainer has a knowledge advantage over the listener(s) (knowledge asymmetry).

3. Explaining pursues the objective of making certain content understandable to the listener. Explaining is therefore not about presenting specialised content, but about making it understandable.

Schorn (2022)


The explainer video refers only to parts of a topic.

Findeisen (2019)


The explainer video is intended to achieve an understanding in the viewer.

Findeisen (2019)

Famous examples

Very popular youtube channels exclusively creating explainer videos are the following: ‘1Blue3Brown’, ‘Crash Course’, ‘Veritasium’, ‘Ted Ed’ or in german famously ‘Simple Club’ and the German pop scientist Harald Lesch appearing as an explainer in videos produced by the ZdF. All of these use illustrations with an off-camera narration, while some like ‘Veritasium’ uses an on-camera narrator, who is sometimes intercut by footages of the subject or infographics, with which he also sometimes interacts.


Explainer videos are produced to serve two main purposes: education or advertisements, both function on the premise that the audience leaves the video with the certitude that they have understood. Because of this Karsten Wolf (2015) adds:

Es gibt (noch?) keine ausgeprägte künstlerische Auseinandersetzung mit dem Erklärfilm/-video. Die Mehrzahl der Erklärvideos und insbesondere der Video-Tutorials sind vielmehr überwiegend unkünstlerisch. Sie fokussieren auf das intentionale Beantworten von Fragen; das Enigmatische der Kunst dagegen steht nicht im Mittelpunkt.


& Problems

Illusion of understanding 

In the world of explainer videos, achieving a balance between educational rigor and aesthetic appeal is challenging. Most explainer videos focus heavily on delivering clear and concise information but often neglect the artistic elements that can enhance the viewer’s experience. In his review of research Kulgemeyer (2018) points to this.

Firstly when confronted with things being explained such as in an online explainer video, learners seem to be particularly prone to overestimate how much they understand. Rozenblit and Keil call this phenomenon the „illusion of explanatory depth“. Such a phenomenon is likely to occur in understanding natural phenomena such as in physics because people erroneously assume that understanding a phenom- enon at one level (e.g., level of observation) automatically leads to understanding this phenomenon at a deeper level (e.g., level of underlying mechanisms).

Seduction of Images

This illusion is particularly prevalent in videos that use visual aids, which can create a misleading sense of comprehension. Research by Salomon (1984) and Lowe (2003) has shown that graphical animations and motion pictures can attract a learner’s attention to an understanding that is too intuitive, further contributing to this illusion.

Second, when watching an online explainer video, learners process visual infor- mation in the form of motion pictures. Research demonstrates that such pictures can influence feelings of how much is understood (Salomon, 1984). For example, Lowe (2003) showed that graphical animations can contribute to an illusion of understand- ing when they attract a learner’s attention to information that is not relevant for learning. Jaeger and Wiley (2014) suggest that the effect of not being able to distinguish „between their feelings of efficacy and their actual level of understanding and effort, […] could be leading them [the learners] to make inaccurate judgments about their comprehension when images are present.“ (p. 69). Wiley (2019) calls this a „seduction effect“ of pictures. In addition, Paik and Schraw (2013) found an effect of learning with animations on the development of an illusion of understanding.


To combat this, we must ensure that our visual aids are not only accurate but also directly relevant to the content being explained. By doing so, we help viewers achieve a genuine understanding of the material rather than a superficial one.

In his review of research Kulgemeyer (2018) developed and empirically tested a framework to improve the effectiveness of explainer videos based on studies (Geelan, 2012; Kulgemeyer, 2019; Wittwer & Renkl, 2008).

Rule-example, example-rule

For factual knowledge, use rule-example: state the rule first, then illustrate with examples. For procedural knowledge, use example-rule: demonstrate the steps first, then explain the general rules. This enhances learning by clarifying facts and making procedures easier to understand and apply.

Adaptation to prior knowledge

The explainer video is tailored to the audience, considering their existing knowledge, potential misconceptions, and interests. This customization ensures the content is relevant, addresses misunderstandings, and engages viewers, thereby enhancing comprehension and retention.



The video succinctly encapsulates the core points of the explanation, providing a clear and concise overview. This summary aids in reinforcing key concepts, ensuring viewers grasp the main ideas efficiently and effectively, enhancing understanding and retention of the material presented.


The video employs examples to vividly demonstrate the principle, making abstract concepts more concrete and relatable. By illustrating the principle in real-world scenarios, it enhances viewer comprehension and retention, bridging the gap between theory and practice and facilitating a deeper understanding of the content.

Analogies and models

The video leverages analogies and models to establish connections between unfamiliar concepts and familiar domains, aiding comprehension. By drawing parallels and simplifying complex ideas, it helps viewers relate to the new information, making it more accessible and facilitating deeper understanding and retention.

Representation forms

The video utilizes various representation forms and demonstrations to present information visually and kinesthetically. Whether through graphs, charts, or hands-on experiments, these demonstrations enhance comprehension by providing multiple sensory inputs, reinforcing key concepts, and catering to diverse learning styles, thereby maximizing viewer engagement and retention.

Level of language

The video employs a familiar level of language, ensuring accessibility and understanding for its audience. By using clear, straightforward language devoid of jargon, it eliminates barriers to comprehension and enables viewers to grasp complex concepts more easily, fostering a deeper connection with the content presented.

Level of mathematization

The video utilizes a familiar level of mathematization, presenting mathematical concepts in a way that resonates with the audience’s prior knowledge and experience. By avoiding overly complex equations and using relatable examples, it enhances understanding and engagement, making mathematical principles more accessible and applicable to real-world scenarios.

Avoiding digressions

The video maintains a focus on the core idea, avoiding unnecessary digressions to keep cognitive load low. By streamlining content and minimizing distractions, it optimizes learning by allowing viewers to concentrate on essential concepts, facilitating comprehension, and enhancing retention of the key information presented.

High coherence

The video strategically connects sentences with connectors, particularly „because,“ to elucidate causal relationships and reinforce understanding. By explicitly stating reasons and explanations, it clarifies the logical progression of ideas, facilitating comprehension. This cohesive structure aids viewers in making connections between concepts and strengthens overall understanding of the material presented.

Highlighting relevancy

The video explicitly highlights the relevance of the explained topic to the viewer, emphasizing its practical importance or real-world applications. By establishing connections between the content and the viewer’s interests, needs, or experiences, it fosters engagement and motivation, enhancing the viewer’s understanding and appreciation of the subject matter.

Direct addressing

The video directly addresses the explainee, utilizing the second-person singular pronoun to establish a personal connection and foster engagement. By speaking directly to the viewer, it creates a sense of involvement and relevance, enhancing comprehension and retention by making the information feel specifically tailored to the individual viewer’s perspective.

Learning tasks

The video outlines learning tasks for explainees to actively participate in, fostering deeper engagement and understanding. By encouraging activities such as problem-solving, reflection, or discussion, it promotes active learning and application of the material, empowering explainees to take an active role in their own learning journey and reinforcing comprehension.

The future of the form 

The explainer videos as art 

The main problem that Kulgemeyer identifies in his study is that the greatest strength of explanatory videos brings about their own downfall: the goal of understanding. This is created not only by their texts, but also by their visual representations, which make the abstract all too tangible and relatable.  As Wolf remarks, Explainer videos havent been approached as artworks. I claim such an approachcan be a key way to ensure an illusion of understanding is avoided.

The precondition for this is a definition of the work of art based on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s concept of art, as set out in his lectures on aesthetics delivered in Heidelberg in 1818 and in Berlin in 1820/21, 1823, 1826 and 1828/29.

In the section „II. Wissenschaftliche Behandlungsarten des Schönen und der Kunst“ (1./b.) Hegel claims the following:

Zum Charakteristischen der Kunst gehœrt erstens ein Inhalt, als z. B. bestimmte Empfindung, Situation, Begebenheit, Handlung, Individuum; zweitens die Art und Weise, in welcher der Inhalt zur Darstellung gebracht ist. Auf diese Art der Darstellung bezieht sich das Kunstgesetz des Charakteristischen, indem es fordert, dass alles Besondere in der Ausdrucksweise zur bestimmten Bezeichnung ihres Inhalts diene und ein Glied in der Ausdrueckung desselben sei. Wir haben also als die Elemente des Schönen ein Inneres, einen Inhalt, und ein Äußeres, welches jenen Inhalt bedeutet, charakterisiert; das Innere scheint im Äußeren und gibt durch dasselbe sich zu erkennen, indem das Äußere von sich hinweg auf das Innere hinweist.

Hegel’s definition of the work of art

To ask Hegel about art means to ask him about his entire system, which is a step-by-step sequence whose content is the infinite and absolute spirit, which includes all finite stages of its path to itself, in which it always differentiates itself from itself in individual entities of the finite. Within this framework, Hegel can also explain art as a product of the self-differentiation of the spirit, alongside religion and philosophy. The absolute spirit takes the form of thought embodied in an objective shape as a work of art. For the absolute spirit as a true idea is the unity of subject and object.

This can be seen in the work of art whose object side (the form) of the work of art expresses its spiritual side (the content). Both aspects effectively merge into one another and form a unity that sublates out their individual finiteness. If this unity is not given, the given work does not function as a work of art. A unity must emerge between the previously finite entities of form and content: The infinite spirit realizes itself in an object. This differs from religion as affective inwardness and from philosophy (the highest level), in which the spirit is absolute in and of itself.

Der absolute Geist


Die Kunst

§ 556 [Die Kunst ist] die konkrete Anschauung und Vorstellung des an sich absoluten Geistes als des Ideals, – der aus dem subjektiven Geiste geborenen konkreten Gestalt, in welcher die natürliche Unmittelbarkeit nur Zeichen der Idee, zu deren Ausdruck so durch den einbildenden Geist verklärt ist, daß die Gestalt sonst nichts anderes an ihr zeigt.



Die Religion 

§ 564 [I]ndem das Wissen, das Prinzip, wodurch die Substanz Geist ist, als die unendliche für sich seiende Form
das Selbstbestimmende ist, ist es schlechthin Manifestieren; der Geist ist nur Geist, insofern er für den Geist ist, und in der absoluten Religion ist es der absolute Geist, der nicht mehr abstrakte Momente seiner, sondern sich selbst manifestiert.



Die Philosophie

§ 572 Diese Wissenschaft ist insofern die Einheit der Kunst und Religion, als die der Form nach äußerliche Anschauungsweise der ersteren, deren subjektives Produzieren und Zersplittern des substantiellen Inhalts in viele selbständige Gestalten, in der Totalität der zweiten, deren in der Vorstellung sich entfaltendes Auseinandergehen und Vermitteln des Entfalteten, nicht nur zu einem Ganzen zusammengehalten, sondern auch in die einfache geistige Anschauung vereint und dann zum selbstbewußten Denken erhoben ist.

Hegel’s dialectic of being explained

Even though Hegel argues that romantic art in general and comedy in particular Alain Badiou in an article titled „Hegel, les arts et le cinéma“ (2018) that cinema is in fact the final art form as the absolute that unites all previous forms:

This new art would then be the final art, not because the absolute would only manifest itself here negatively, but, on the contrary, because it would manifest itself in the total mobilization of the registers of representation. It would be at one and the same time architecture, sculpture, painting, and dramatic poetry, drawing the history of art to a close not through the negative pirouettes of comedy, but with the attendant anxiety and seriousness of a redemptive totalization.

Following Hegel’s definition of art as content (as true thought) immanent to the form of an object, the Hegelian Robert Pippin argues that cinema itself is reflective thought, philosophical work immanent as form and content.

So in these terms, the strongest claim is not that film might inspire a viewer to pose philosophical questions or that film can serve as examples of philosophical problems (like moral dilemmas, for example), or that they pose „thought experiments“ that prompt philosophy, but that film, some films anyway, can have philosophical work to do; they themselves need to be considered modes of reflective thought.

The final stage of art is the explainer video 

The explainer video as the ultimate art form

For Hegel, philosophy is the highest form of the Absolute Spirit, since it is neither a feeling (religion) nor a sensible object (art), but the concept “der sich selbst zum Inhalt hat und sich begreift.” If film, like any other art form, is the concept (i.e. philosophy) in a sensual form and if the ultimate art is one that unites all previous forms – film – but also one in which content (Begriff) and form are one, then the ultimate art form cannot be the classic narrative film, but it must be a film that deals with nothing other than the concept (i.e. philosophy) and reproduces this content in the most direct form in its formal aspects.

The last art form is a form that ties in with philosophy itself: an explainer video. An Explainer is not a disembodied philosophy, but an aesthetic object that is also philosophy. Philosophy as a corporeal object and thus the final state of the absolute as an object. This form thus links from the lower end of the ladder of the Absolute Mind to its end, in reverse, forming a möbius strip.