Ivan Rogovchenko explains WePlay! Esports’ fresh approach to design
In June 2020, We play! Sports hosted its first-ever publisher-connected Counter-Strike: Global Offensive event, WePlay! clutch island. While the competition took place online due to COVID-19 restrictions, the broadcast was made in a studio setting with a familiar roster of commentators, analysts and – of course – WePlay! Esports unique set design.
Once WePlay! Clutch Island done, we spoke with Ivan Rogovchenko, Chief Design Officer at WePlay! Sportsabout the tournament operator’s design approach and how exactly the concept behind this event came to fruition.
Esports Insider: WePlay! Esports’ stages and overall designs set it far apart from all other major tournament organizers. How long has WePlay! Specialized esports?
Ivan Rogovchenko: We play! Esports has a long history since 2012. It was a small company with a team consisting mainly of esports enthusiasts, but the relaunch at the end of winter 2018 changed the way we work a lot. Since then we’ve been looking for effective ways to connect with audiences. Our goal is to cover eSports events across the entire existing ecosystem but with a unique approach.
When we planned to host our first tournament, Reshuffle Madness, in September 2018, we wanted to make a memorable first impression. We had the resources, a freshly revamped studio, a media platform and successful past projects in 2016 with huge prize money under our belt.
So we couldn’t just do another esports event. How did we want to differentiate ourselves from competitors? First, we focused on the most important needs and desires of our target audience: great visual content and engaging Tell stories. TThese two pillars form our visual communication strategy. The production team led by Maksym Bilonogov, General Producer at WePlay! Esports is responsible for the storytelling – and the design team I lead is working on the visual part. Our art director works closely with the production team to bring the ideas we present to life Ultimately, the entire team influences how WePlay! Esports interacts with the audience, new and potential partners or teams.
ESI: Can you share some details about the design process that goes into creating these sets and stories behind the events themselves? Is this all done in-house, or is some of the process from conception to execution outsourced?
IR: We try to do everything ourselves and that is our principle. All infrastructure, tournament platform, brand identity and other design solutions are developed by our staff. This principle allows us to make and implement decisions flexibly and quickly and to create a strategy for the visual communication design. We can also experiment without fear of making mistakes because we hire people who fit our company culture and adapt our strategy to them.
Speaking of employees: we have several teams working together every day. The production team develops a tournament idea from a storytelling point of view. From this idea and action, the communication design team develops branding, a tournament identity, the so-called key visuals for advertising, communication and other tasks. The titular team creates the graphics that viewers see on-air, such as stats, player comparisons, activity, or the heads-up displayj – a background UI in Counter-Strike shown at WePlay! clutch island.
When it comes to the design process, we use many methods, so I’ll skip that part. But the most important thing is that we usually try to combine things that you wouldn’t expect to see together. For example, we used a fluffy logo for the We play! Dota 2 Valentine Madness Event and a mix of closed community and classic story at WePlay! Pushka League Dota 2 event – the latter is the best for me efficient branding we’ve ever done for tournaments.
IT I: It seems doable that many design concepts are conceived and discarded when trying to find the perfect solution. Can you think of a rough ratio between successful final designs reaching the public and the total number of designs and ideas dreamed up by WePlay? The Esports design team?
IR: In graphic design, the concept behind the symbol used is crucial – and I’ll tell you what – once you have a solid idea based on great visual storytelling, the visual component you get is the result of the work of experienced specialists. We spend a lot of time fleshing out each concept. We usually choose the third or fourth solution because it has features to build a great product: foresight, great idea, and visual presentation. So our team was able to do many iterations before creating the final design. We have a fun story for situations like this called “12 Hour Branding”.
When preparing for WeSave! Charity Play, an event to fight the spread of the coronavirus, Vitalii Ivanenko, Head of Design at WePlay! Esports, and I made this up concept at 6 p.m. We wanted to have the design ready by morning so we could send out invites to teams as quickly as possible. The next working day, the art director threw down all our ideas and drafts. Within two hours, she came up with a new concept herself, and that was the logo everyone saw on the show.
ESI: There needs to be a large team behind such bold design projects. Can you share what kind of resources – whether time, human or financial budget – go into planning and delivering such unique designs?
IR: Because we design everything in-house, our team is huge and includes different roles. 3D and motion designers work in the production team led by General Producer Maksym Bilonogov. The remaining specialists come from my department and represent two main disciplines: visual communication and interaction design.
The art director leads the visual communication design team. These guys come up with concepts for tournaments, promotional campaigns, special projects and manage design standards. The team also includes people who work exclusively on banners and promotional graphics for marketing communications, and those who do social media design – graphics that can be seen on Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and our website. The creative team develops an identity for tournaments and all branding.
Product designers, UX designers, UX copywriters and researchers work on our digital products: media, events and tournament platforms, as well as other products that make WePlay! Esports audience interacts. So this is our interaction design team. Designers on the title team create all of the graphics that viewers can see during a broadcast on Twitch.
Several other teams also help us with the work. For example, the customer experience team is responsible for collecting feedback, user growth, and additional research. This team helps us understand the needs and wants of our users so we can respond. We recently set up a branding team that manages internal communications, developing our brand book – specifically the WePlay! Esports Brand – and develops touchpoints.
ESI: Clutch Island was your first CS:GO tournament officially associated with Valve. Do you think WePlay Esports’ unique designs were an important factor in their decision?
IR: I find the well-developed concept that we provided in the application Valve, along with other business components, may have influenced their decision. Working on the concept, we worked out every detail. Finally, we implemented all the proposed elements in this application: an event format and a design concept for WePlay! clutch island.
Did we cooperate with Valve? No. Our production and design teams did the whole job themselves. In my opinion, when we emphasize visual components and storytelling, we let the design play its role, which is to grab the user’s attention and evoke the necessary emotions.
We will go deeper in this direction and develop new products. We’ll do everything we can to keep your dopamine levels high during tournaments because we have lots of ideas and surprises in store for you!
Read more interviews and features in Issue 6 of Esports Journal.
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