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Layer Tennis: Afterthoughts

"So, tell me what I need to know" I said.

"It's awful...the most stressful thing ever" was the reply.

"And this is your third time?"


That's a bit of a paraphrase from my pre-match conversation with Armin Vit, my opponent for Coudal's Layer Tennis, but it pretty much captures the spirit of our conversation. It was suggested that we speak before the match and he was kind enough to give me a few of the things he had learned from his previous experience participating. As advertised, it was stressful, challenging, exhausting and exciting.

Once I found out I had won the serve, I started thinking about how to get the ball rolling, while also making a statement. Armin and I had collaborated on the April Fool's Dunkin rebrand through BRAND NEW so an invitation to a brand/rebrand battle was the idea. It's a competitive event, so I wanted to talk a little good natured trash and also reference our history together. I stopped by grabbed a few different kinds of donuts and had a little photo shoot right before the match started to create the serve. Yes I ate the rest of the donut after.

Nothing can really prepare you for the craziness of the match as it goes on. Armin had warned me but it was like describing what it's like to walk on the surface of the moon. I was pretty clear-headed in the beginning, but by over halfway through, everything was a blur. My goal was to play to my strengths. I think I can work well in different styles and have an offbeat wit and sense of humor. I wanted my volleys to move the narrative forward, connect things together and wanted them to feel funny (to me at least). I spent some time before the match trying to imagine the different directions it could go in and be prepared, but that's nearly impossible. There is a lot of communication going on behind the scenes and staying focused and relaxed was tough.

Note to myself for the match I had my Lumix GF1, my DDC pencil, and my graph pad handy. Once you dive in, imagery can be a real challenge. You could really burn all of your time just searching for an image you have in mind and then there's the issue of copyright, etc. I chose to rely on what I could drum up on the spot or files that I just keep handy in my image library on a daily basis. I had the phone idea, but rather than finding a slick smart phone shot, I tried to go with the low-tech approach and let it work for me.

We as designers and communicators want to refine and perfect. This was a really tough exercise, because you only have time to go with your first thought or gut instinct. In some cases I think it worked out well, in other cases, I spent the next few days kicking myself wishing I'd done this or that differently. Logos created in match progress Armin played an awesome match, and was really generous to give me the mini-orientation before the match. I really appreciate Jim Coudal extending the invitation and being a pleasure to work with. Thanks to my pals Brady Bone, Joey Ellis, Jason Gammon and my boss Robert Hawse for all the encouragement and support. And for all the fine folks out there on twitter sending a kind word before or after the match, it was much appreciated. It was a truly exciting experience and I feel very honored to have been a part of it.

There's some amazing match-ups coming this season. Be sure to check 'em out.

Update: the votes are in. I lost. Gonna go call my mom on MiPhondroid.

"Creation of the MiPhondroid" an in-match snap by Joey Ellis

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Reader Comments (2)

Well done. I was proud of you. You did great!

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeefy

I agree! You were amazing, and your wit was superb! It made for a wonderful Friday afternoon.
And thank you for writing this up, and documenting your process in the short time you had to do any of it. How you could come up with such snappy, witty design is true talent and genius!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSam Barnes

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