Kat Whitfield Design
Kat Whitfield Design

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Logos & Branding: Pro E-Sports vs. Traditional Sports

Professional E-Sports have really come into their own in the past decade. In terms of revenue and fanbase, certain games are on par with or even surpass traditional pro sports such as soccer or football. 

Players aren't making chump change either. While it was impossible to make a living only playing video games in the past, some superstars are making millions on a pro team, not to mention popular streamers and YouTubers regularly raking in more money and viewers than cable TV. 

 Hey I'm Faker AKA Lee Sang-hyeok AKA Asian Harry Potter AKA The Best League of Legends Player. I'm rumored to make a 2.5 million dollar salary just to play a video game. Sup with you?

Hey I'm Faker AKA Lee Sang-hyeok AKA Asian Harry Potter AKA The Best League of Legends Player. I'm rumored to make a 2.5 million dollar salary just to play a video game. Sup with you?

 Hey what's up, I'm TimTheTatMan and I make something like $35,000 a month playing video games and being funny. What do you do?

Hey what's up, I'm TimTheTatMan and I make something like $35,000 a month playing video games and being funny. What do you do?

Considering professional gaming is an industry clearly doing well for itself, it raises the question (errr...to me anyway): 

When will E-Sports branding catch up?

My goal is not to rag on the gaming industry with this post. It's an industry near and dear to my heart, second only really to Design itself or Health + Fitness. 

Traditional pro sports have been around for a long, long time, after all. (Greek Olympics anyone?) They've had plenty of time to figure out what they're all about. They have a rich history and traditions that new athletes join in. 

Pro gaming doesn't quite have that. In addition to only really getting off the ground in the past decade, the games that are played change constantly. 2002 was all about Starcraft: Brood Wars, 10 years later Brood Wars is no longer played and League of Legends has taken the top spot. 

Now, the companies making these games tend to be as professional as the next corporate giant in terms of branding, PR, etc. 

 The stage for Starcraft World Finals (2014). They go all out you could say.

The stage for Starcraft World Finals (2014). They go all out you could say.

But let's compare some of the above examples to the logos and branding of professional e-sports teams(I've already written a post about one that bugs me more than most):

 EDward Gaming - a pro team which has won over 2 million in prize money since 2014 - has a complicated and kind of uninspired logo. (A gym I used to work for had one very similar, actually!) It doesn't convey much of anything about the team. It could make a cool video intro animation though.

EDward Gaming - a pro team which has won over 2 million in prize money since 2014 - has a complicated and kind of uninspired logo. (A gym I used to work for had one very similar, actually!) It doesn't convey much of anything about the team. It could make a cool video intro animation though.

 What does EDG do when they need their logo in plain Black & White, or to put it on any medium that can't properly display the 3D elements of their primary logo? Throw a circle around it and skew the text of course!

What does EDG do when they need their logo in plain Black & White, or to put it on any medium that can't properly display the 3D elements of their primary logo? Throw a circle around it and skew the text of course!

 Dignitas was formed in 2003 and has teams across a handful of games like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. While this primary logo could likely find a better typeface (and fix the spacing!!), the main issue is an overly-complex icon. Gradients and some 3D imagery make this tough to translate onto flatter mediums. This gets you.....

Dignitas was formed in 2003 and has teams across a handful of games like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. While this primary logo could likely find a better typeface (and fix the spacing!!), the main issue is an overly-complex icon. Gradients and some 3D imagery make this tough to translate onto flatter mediums. This gets you.....

 This icon. Which wouldn't be too bad, honestly, but because the left eye can't carry over its layering to a flat surface, it just looks off! A quick redesign could fix this, and I might pursue that in a future blog post. 

This icon. Which wouldn't be too bad, honestly, but because the left eye can't carry over its layering to a flat surface, it just looks off! A quick redesign could fix this, and I might pursue that in a future blog post. 

 Team MVP's logo isn't bad (especially compared to their old logo on the right), but I would have loved to do an actual discovery session with the team and figure out of the shield imagery was a good fit. I feel that a complete redesign would have been appropriate for this team. In any case, the arrangement of this logo (triple strokes around the shield / lettering, the shield not really contributing anything to the logo) could be much better.

Team MVP's logo isn't bad (especially compared to their old logo on the right), but I would have loved to do an actual discovery session with the team and figure out of the shield imagery was a good fit. I feel that a complete redesign would have been appropriate for this team. In any case, the arrangement of this logo (triple strokes around the shield / lettering, the shield not really contributing anything to the logo) could be much better.

 I'm just including this logo for MVP (used until  2012 !) to show that things  are  getting markedly better for design in the e-sports world!

I'm just including this logo for MVP (used until 2012!) to show that things are getting markedly better for design in the e-sports world!

 This logo is next on my redesign list. It has a lot of potential, and is an example of integrating shield imagery in a way that makes sense. But the typeface and odd shaping of the horse's mane deserve some attention! 

This logo is next on my redesign list. It has a lot of potential, and is an example of integrating shield imagery in a way that makes sense. But the typeface and odd shaping of the horse's mane deserve some attention! 

Now, in reality, the vast majority of pro teams typically aren't rolling in money, even if the industry as a whole is. Not to mention newer and smaller teams often consist of and are managed by young people with no previous experience in such an endeavor.

So it's just not been anyone's #1 priority to get E-Sports design game on par with it's .... game game. Getting the world of gaming out of the dark, then fighting to remove the stigma around those who are into it has been a lot of work (that's been paying off quite well the past ten years or so, I might add).

Traditional Sport Logos

I'd like to use this section just to show off some examples of the design choices of traditional sports, then talk about how they fit together.

 

A Coherent Picture

If you take a look at all of these collages, each of the logos typically "fit" with the others. For example, the MLS and Premier League Soccer logos often depict shields, crests, and banners. While I'm not even a casual fan of soccer (and thus have little knowledge of the teams), if I had to guess this is a reference to how far back soccer goes and how wide spread it is. At least to me, it invokes thoughts of tradition and a long history, sort of similar to what family crests represent. Intentional? Hopefully, because it works well. 

Regardless of WHY many of them use these elements, the fact that they do makes for a coherent image no matter what soccer match you're watching. You don't need to know who a particular team is to look at their crest & banner theme and know they're a soccer team. 

Similarly, almost all NFL logos share: 

  • Animal or warrior imagery
  • 1 or 2 thick outlines (one typically black or white)
  • Movement Lines - diagonal or smooth curved lines suggesting speed or movement

Notice any similarities between all of the MLB logos? 

Here's a cool article I found while researching that uses this principle to transform NFL logos to soccer logos.

Thoughts for Esports Teams

Based on the above, I think Esports could stand to use their own set of general design rules to create a more professional and coherent picture. Exactly what those rules could be will be for another blog post. This one addresses the problem - the next will be to fix it! 

Kat Whitfield