Don’t compromise complexity!


Dealing with complex subject matters | Mandate Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF | Story SNSF, Hynek Bures | Direction Hynek Bures | Graphics & animations Ehud Graf | Voice Fernando Tiberini | Music Benoît Gysler | Languages German, French | 2020

Don’t simplify your complex and politically sensitive message! Stay true to complexity. Find the right words, the just story.

At the end of 2019 dubbed perceptions collaborated with the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF on two animated videos. The videos inform politicians, researchers and the interested public on its financial-administrative contstrains when channelling annual federal allocations to SNSF backed projects. The videos have been produced in two languages, German and French. For the French version click here for video 1 and video 2.

Complexity creates identity

Our first drafts aimed at communicating SNSF’s message in one video. But we soon realized that a short explanation will not do justice in truly reflecting the complexity of SNF’s budgetary dilemma. We would have produced an animation which SNSF doesn’t identify with. This has implications for the distribution of the message. The Foundation has its own audience. An audience that to a certain extent reflects what the SNSF stands for. To reach its audience we kept true to the Foundation’s form of expression.

The temptation to impose a simpler view of the matter is high: A simple message is understood by a greater number of viewers. But this equation doesn’t necessarily work. A simple message quickly becomes an uninvolved message. You end up reaching nobody. And as I am currently reading interviews with Jean Cocteau, I would like to share with you this phrase, though Jean Cocteau was rather referring to auteur films.

Si vous dites: « Je vais faire une œvre populaire », vous ratez votre coup.

Jean Cocteau, Entretiens sur le cinématographe, p.120

Complexity is a joy to work with

Here a few reflections on how we dealt with complexity:

  1. We divided the message into two 2.5 minutes videos. Each video is not too long to keep the attention of the typical YouTube audience. And those viewers who are interested in the topic will go on to watch both videos.
  2. We created a story around the bureaucratic and sober information. In this case we created a personal story around a scientist who depends on the proper functioning of SNSF’s fund flow.
  3. And we kept PowerPoint-like elements, such as the funds allocation diagram, which speak to the client and its audience. The message bears no shortcuts which could lead to facile criticism.

Think of other potential distribution channels

Though the animations were meant to be watched one after the other, they have been designed to be watched as stand-alone messages, as well. That is why video 2 starts with an introduction from video 1.

The Foundation can use the videos in different settings:

  1. On its YouTube channel and webpage.
  2. In PowerPoint presentations: Inserting a 5 minutes video into your presentation is often too long. Two 2.5 minutes videos give you greater flexibility in structuring your presentation.
  3. On communication channels the foundation doesn’t control, by letting its viewers share these videos as they like.