The evolution of the ETC brand

The European Team Championship (ETC) is rapidly becoming one of the worlds premiere tabletop gaming event held annually. Players gather from around the world to play competitive war-games in host countries every year, to be in the competition or just to get away from home and have fun. The organization of the event has become a big task and it has to cover a lot of ground for it to work and be succesful. Usually the big things like the choice of venue, accommodation and managing meals overshadows the smaller things that make the event more streamlined and efficient.

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From a design standpoint, ETC 2013 Novi Sad was found lacking in design and as someone who was part of the organization I found it challenging to come up with local branding that can help the organizers and make things more simpler, subtler and clear to the attending players. The branding helped in many ways. From the color coding of game systems played, to individual logos for the systems, venue passes with timetables and other info, T-shirts, diplomas, etc…

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The inspiration

The biggest issue in designing the brand was to find something that is simple, yet resonated with the games played on the tournament. I knew that the official manufacturer of the two prominent games played at ETC did not support the competition and it would violate copyright laws if we used the official iconography, so we had to come up with something new. That meant we had to analyze the organizations base values, games played, previous tournament experiences and tabletop gaming competitions in general.

The games played on ETC are all tabletop strategy games. They all differ in many ways and also have lots of similarities. But the main thing in common is the element of luck – the dice. This was the first and most important thing for the design process. The dice or the cube is a solid and a stable form on which we can build upon (from a design standpoint). And this was the main source of the inspiration for the logo.

ETC is also a competition so there are winners, losers and ranks to fight for. The games played are war-games which include miniatures of armies from grunts to generals. So military rank system was also present in the games. This gave the second part of the design.

Strategy is vital in all games. In essence the games played at ETC are a evolved (and complex) versions of chess. The ability of foreseeing and anticipating the opponents next move is an integral part of the game. While chess has a very simple and straight forward rules, the modern war-games are more complex and lifelike. In modern boardgames and computer strategy games the square from the chess had evolved into the hexagon which opens up new possibilities. In the games that are played on the ETC this isn’t the case but there is a connection in the dice that rounds up the design.

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The design

In design, functionality is key. Design in it self is not enough. Everything in use around you was designed at some point in time. It is the designers job to make the thing he designs simple, functional, efficient yet esthetically pleasing.

As I said before, the basis for the design was the cube or dice. This is the element that connects all of the games. The connection with the hexagon which (in our case) is the evolved base of the chess table comes through orthogonal projection (math stuff). The cube in this mathematical projection has the outlines of the hexagon. This made it possible and logical to be used as the basis of the design. The shape exists in two dimensional and three dimensional space also which made it possible to implement it in more ways then a more complex design. The hexagon from a drawing can become a physical object and vice versa.

At this point the adding of the rank was a very logical and simple step. In the 2D representation of the hexagon the introduction of lines in the lower quarter made it possible to create the “stripe” which was later color coded to yellow (golden) and gave us the familiar “private” stripe. In the 3D projection the lower quarter of the cube becomes a golden base which gives the symbol a more heavier, stable look. Now we also needed the symbol to represent the game systems. This was done by color coding.

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The colors

Color coding the symbol is done by introducing the the three base colors: red, green, blue. They all fell into their slots fairly easily. Each visible side of the cube got colored with a separate color.

Red (maroon) was chosen to represent the fantasy setting. It is more royal and corresponds well with the overall design of the setting and rulebook.

Green (dark green) was given to the setting of world war two. The color was left in the more general tone so that it stays mostly neutral. This is debatable but in the end it is still the best choice and people who play the game can relate to it.

Blue is the darkest color in the mix and it represents the “grim darkness of the future”. It also relates well to the setting and the color of the rulebook.

Variations have been introduced into the colors by dissecting the main shape. This gives the symbol a more dynamic and military camouflage feel.

The positioning of the colors in the symbol was made by simple color proximity on the color table. Because yellow is the brightest color in the logo, the color most closest to it got on top of it. Blue is the opposite of yellow so it had to be in contrast with it. That is why the blue is on the top part of the symbol. It is also the darkest color which makes it a good background for the typography.

The typeface

Due to the international character of the organization and the changing of the host countries every year we felt that there was a need to use standardized typefaces that can be freely used yet a bit different from the ones available in most operating systems. The official language of the tournament is english so the typeface should cover this basic requirement but we chose a font that can be used in most European countries that use latin script. The font used for text bodies is called Signika.

Signika is a sans-serif with a gentle character, developed for wayfinding, signage, and other media where clarity of information is required. It has a low contrast and tall x-height to improve readability of texts in small sizes as well as in large distances from the reader. The typeface comes with a wide character set supporting most of the European languages, small caps, pictograms and arrows. All weights from Light to Bold have alternative Negative versions, optimized to solve the effect of juxtaposed positive and negative text setting, where the text in negative tends to look thicker.

The other type we used is the Bebas Neue which is also a free font that is all in caps. It is a heavy type that is used in the main title and in headlines. It has only the basic English letters, numbers and pictograms. This is a no holds bard and loud font yet it is clear and readable.

In combination with these fonts all future design and text formatting are covered. From the title to the venue pass cards and the rules clarifications, everything can be covered.

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The logotype

The final logo is the combination of the symbol and the lettering. The lettering is shortened to be included in the logo so that it can be acknowledged as a standalone logo or in combination with the full title on the right side of the symbol. The title can also stand under the symbol. The left side of the symbol is flanked by the host country, city and year in separate lines. This title can also stand under the main symbol parallel to the main event title.

This is the final form of the complete logo and as such represents the organization and games that are played. The logo has variations which are used in negative, and black and white.

The main characteristic is that from this logo we can extract the logos for all the game systems that are played giving them full autonomy inside the organization.

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The subtypes of the logo

The main logo shape is used as a base for the design of the logos for the game systems and the European Singles Championship (ESC) event. The main shape of the symbol is colored in accordance with the color coding of the system and the three letter abbreviation is replaced by the abbreviation of the games name. This gives three new logos that can be used by the organizers to distinguish themselves and the players in the tournament by the systems played. These subtypes also have the variations for negative and black and white.

The ESC logo is the same logo as the ETC logo, with the only difference in the abbreviation. This makes the players participating in the singles as much important as the team championship players. Other distinctions can also be found in the implementation of the brand.

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The implementation

After the design of all the logos for the main and side events have been finished we started to implement the design into the organizational process. From the start it was clear that every system had to have it’s separate approach and it should always be clear what is what and who is who. So the color coding started to make sense. The main organizers took on the white color, the main staff was color coded yellow and the staff for the systems had their colors as well. This included T-shirts, venue passes, diplomas, rules clarification, etc…

The ranks system was also introduced. The more stripes you have the more important you are. Staff that were assigned to a game system with one stripes were the grunts and tech judges, line judges had two stripes and the head judges had three.

The correspondence package was also branded so every official document had the new logo in b&w. We also designed additional pictograms for the venue maps and vouchers.

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The future of the brand

The design of the new logo is mostly aimed at making life more easier for the organizers. It is not a big or revolutionary design. It is a practical design that can help future organizers and players be more efficient in their efforts to create a good tournament. There is a lot to work on and lot to improve and I’m looking forward to new challenges of implementation.

On the other hand the logo has a concrete look and it is easily identifiable. Players can, and I think they will, wear the design in future tournaments which others will recognize as the ETC brand and the player as a competitive player.

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