The universe is an awe-inspiring place, a beautiful swirling storm of complex systems. It’s also extremely difficult to understand. Thankfully, there’s Kurz Gesagt, a team of artists and animators (based in Munich, Germany) who create entertaining, easy-to-understand animated videos about everything from the big bang theory and the origins of life to the human immune system and nuclear power.
Kurz Gesagt (German for “in a nutshell”) is Philipp Dettmer and Stephan Rether. Dettmer is a trained illustrator and information design specialist; Rether, a self-taught animator. Both share an insatiable curiosity, a love of clean design, and a studious nature. But it wasn’t always that way. Dettmer dropped out of school at 15 because he was bored to tears. “I was really bad at school for a long time,” he says. “I just wasn’t interested in anything, and I couldn’t stand lectures.”
In his 20s, he became interested in art. He was drawn to the creative, crafty aspects of design and began exploring his options. He applied to and was accepted by a Munich design school and was immediately drawn to information design projects. That’s when things began to shift. “I rediscovered that everything in the world is super interesting—it’s just the way it was taught that made it boring,” he says.
Dettmer was suddenly inspired to learn about the universe, and to tell everyone else what he’d learned. He made his first animated explainer video for his undergraduate thesis. The designer met Rether around the same time, and the two began explaining the world.
Kurz Gesagt videos are packed with bright colors and clean shapes, and crammed with diagrams and information. They’re also a bit cheeky and irreverent. “Even though we’re explaining complex things, I don’t think it should be too serious,” Dettmer says. “The videos should be fun, and learning something should be a bonus. The evil master plan behind the videos is teaching people without it feeling that way.”
Dettmer and Rether write the videos in English, and they use Adobe Illustrator to create detailed storyboards. Dettmer draws every element for the videos and then hands them off to Rether for animation in Adobe After Effects. And that deep, authoritative voice in the videos? That is British voice actor and journalist Steve Taylor.
Times were tough in the beginning. Dettmer and Rether struggled while building the Kurz Gesagt YouTube channel. But today the team’s videos have had millions of views, and Kurz Gesagt is a small agency with several full and part-time creatives on staff. Their clients include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Australian Academy of Science, Microsoft, Audi, and the European Union. “We’ve become professional explainers,” says Dettmer.
What’s next for Kurz Gesagt? “Our goal is to be totally self-sufficient from content we make for the Internet for free,” says Dettmer. “We want to promote and cultivate the idea that learning is wonderful.”