Interview with Ksenia Babankova — WePlay! Art Director
Interview with Ksenia Babankova — WePlay! Art Director ⚡⚡⚡ Esports news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!
WePlay! always tries to make it a spectacle. And not only by using augmented reality, funny videos and professional talents. There's a whole story behind, well, it's a person — Ksenia Babankova, our Art Director. She's the one to assign the colours, decide the squiggles and set up the beautiful picture for the tournaments. Today we talked with Ksenia, one of the main visual masterminds of our projects.
— Let's start with WePlay! Pushka League design. Hod did you create it?
— We do not start developing the designs from scratch. We have something to start with because there is an idea, a concept made in the studio. Speaking about WePlay! Pushka League, the name was invented by Vitaly Bozhko, our Chief of Esports. At the moment, it's just a hype name, slang. [in Russian, "pushka" means "a cannon" or "a gun", referring to top-notch stuff — ed.] There is no essential meaning in it. People now often use the word "pushka" applicable to some bright and positive emotions. The studio wrapped this idea in a beautiful shell: it is the first season, so we chose the idea of a closed, elite society, like student unions in the United States — all the rituals, emblems, rules, etc. A closed club for those who have passed the test and got into it. The design of the league was implemented through corresponding allegories and visual references: heraldry, tweed jackets, college backstage.
— Seems like it was that easy to combine a cannon and all that collegiate atmosphere?
— Yes, but that’s why we made a heraldic badge, which is based on a real cannon since the slang phrase has no visual representation or image that you can catch on. We wrapped it all in a heraldic sign, in a pattern; all in gold on a deep dark blue background. In our studio, there are elements that have common signs with the concept: coats of arms, old-fashioned fabric, badges, rings. In general, we have a certain element of fun: a modern "gun", but at the same time, due to the visual approach to it as a heraldic sign, everything merged perfectly with the studio's concept. The idea was implemented quickly enough: it took us about a week to do everything.
— What difficulties do designers most often face while preparing for WePlay! Tournaments? What are the most interesting tasks?
— The main and perhaps the only difficulty is the lack of time. Due to the fact that the esports industry is very fast and intense, ideas come abruptly, and you can’t slow down, because even the slightest delay can throw you behind the competitors. So, if a good idea comes to mind, it should be implemented as soon as possible. This is what our sphere is about. Designers don’t have much time left to realize everything: they have to work in accelerated mode. This may affect quality, but we are used to working at that pace. But still, sometimes you want more time to search for references, examples, to make sure that there are no repeats, or in order to come up with some kind of new approach. But often we work with what we have. For example, the concept of WeSave! Charity Play was drawn in an hour and a half.
— Tell us where do you draw inspiration from?
— In everything. The designer should be observing everything, I mean that you need to follow some kind of specialized resources in your free time, see what people are doing now, which trends are popular, what are competitors doing. It is important for us to evaluate what kind of key visual is being made for other tournaments around the world. You need to understand it in order not to get into a situation when the concept you created could have been already implemented by someone in the past. The current young audience is very picky: everything needs to be done brightly, fashionably, trendily, without any signs of something already made. They watch a large number of tournaments, including our competitors, they remember everything and react quickly. You need to understand what is fashionable and interesting now to hook them. It is also important to convey meaning to people through design, colour, and visual images. Therefore, it is important to engage in self-education through online resources.
— Is there a difference between working in esports and other spheres?
— For sure. As we said earlier, in the time given to create. Also, there's a difference in audience. I worked in an advertising agency, which meant that I didn't work for myself. People came there to order a visual product. So it was necessary to reckon with their opinion, to persuade and convince certain decisions' correctness. But in the end, the decision is made by the client whether he buys this product from us or not. But in esports, you are your own director and customer, both. Often it’s even more difficult because you want to do the best, and the deadlines are running out, and at some point, you have to say to yourself: "Stop, that’s good." You can always do better, but at some point, you need to stop yourself and begin implementing the idea. The difference is in approach, as you look at it from a different perspective. You do not have to make it so that the customer will buy it, you sell it to yourself.
— And the last question. As a design pro, would you please name the top-3 best esports logos?
— The first thing that comes to mind is NAVI. Not only about their cool logo, but because they generally develop the brand's visual component. They have merchandise, corporate identity, they have a whole team working on it. They even had a collaboration with a clothing designer. This is very cool. My number two is Team Secret. They have a rather minimalistic logo, compact, but lacking its relevance. And in third place, probably, Team Liquid. They have a very modern and stylish emblem.