Layer Tennis Is a Graphic Design War – Watch the Latest Battle This Friday

Studio 360

If you know what kerning is, you probably already know about Layer Tennis. If not, imagine the classic game Telephone, but using graphic design. And it's awesome.

Here's how it works: Player 1 --- a hardworking designer or illustrator --- posts an image. Player 2 has 15 minutes to manipulate that image before sending it back across the internet to Player 1 for another 15-minute volley. (The term "layer" comes from a Photoshop feature.) Over ten volleys, acatchphrase turns into a rainbow tiger, which turns into abumper sticker folded into a surveillance joke. The fourthmatch of the season starts this Friday, featuring Eve Warrenand Simon Gutkovich.

What's a full match look like? See the slideshow below.

The game started as a brainstorming tool at Coudal Partners (of the popular Field Notes pocket journals); now industry professionals submit their portfolios to be considered for a qualifying round. Jim Coudal, the firm's head and "Commissioner" of Layer Tennis, says almost anything goes: "The only kind of rules we have are: No more jokes about the sport of tennis. And the others are more standard, like don't use stuff you don't have the rights to." And he's firm about thetime limit: "Fifteen minutes is long enough to make a meaningful design decision," he explains, "but not long enough that the audience loses interest."

Layer Tennis matches vacillate between friendly collaboration and snarky one-upmanship: you can see designers team up to create an entire brand identity complete with logos, merchandise, and design puns, or illustrate grisly visual jokes based on fairy tales. But some of the most entertaining battles come down to smack talk, like when one designer butchered his opponent's personal logo while elegantly incorporating text from the previous volley. Every turn is an opportunity to out-think your opponent and creatively put them on the offensive.Coudal Partners selects the winnerby committee, taking into account popular opinion on Twitter.

"I don't tell people how hard it is when I invite them to play," Coudal says. "It's a lot of pressure on the players. Afterwards people often say, 'Wow, I had no idea it would be so hard.' "

You can catch the fourthmatch of this season online this Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. CDT. This season's hashtag is #lyt4.

Slideshow: Kevin Cornell vs. Shaun Inman

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