As I sit here and I’ve a few minutes ago finalized all my taxes, freelance is fun.. until it’s tax time anyway it’s time for another case study! This time it’s a older project I worked on (about three month or so ago when I write this) but I really wanted to have another case study out there. This one goes even deeper into the Twitch branding aspect and problem solving. Who knows, it might be the exact thing that you’re struggling with? Before I start I also want to say that this will contain less work in progress images since I didn’t take enough screenshots but I’ll explain things a bit further as a compromise.
AP Gaming contacted me over Reddit first and then we exchanged Skype handles to nail down all the details. I can stretch this enough — you should always talk to your client as much as possible — there’s nothing wrong with asking questions. It’s better to do it now than down the line realize that the two of you isn’t on the same page and you have to redo work.
However I started working even before he had added me and we had started to talk. The very first thing I did was to familiarize me with his content. In the private message over Reddit he had actually said very briefly what he was looking for so I had an idea of what I was looking for when I was checking out his content on Twitch. Watching VODs for an hour don’t let me know who he is but, if it does he doesn’t really need my help anyway, it however gave me an opportunity to formulate my questions in advance since I already had an idea of what was going to be needed.
AP Gaming needed a complete overhaul of his personal branding, or rather his visual identity to match his personal branding. Overlays, logo, colors, typefaces, banners and additional branding (more about that later). He also hosts several roleplaying shows that all needed a update as well, initially this was only something he had in mind and not something that he thought would be a possibility. Later you can read how we solved the problem as to not have three sets of overlays and saving money rather than lowering quality.
After the interview we both landed on having something very clean, sleek and efficient. I’ve worked with flat design for awhile now and understand that it does come from necessity and not really trend. Is the necessity warranted on Twitch as a platform? Yes and no. I will say yes ever since the introduction of the panel system in the Twitch profile, it has a limited space and the the way the grid works. You have at least be conscious about how you design the panels so they both work with the personal brand and work both in one column as well as three or four in a row. I will say no since it’s possible to design around it, but again you need to have a good understanding of how the panels grid works, if you don’t then your design will not be the way it was intended.
So what exactly did AP Gaming need?
- Banner (YouTube and Twitch)
- Offline card
- Break card
- Show Overlays
With all of this in mind it was time to scour the internet for some inspiration. I started directly after we ended our first conversation and dug deep to find all the things that that was needed. I limited my space to a 1000×2000 pixel moodboard. If there’s too much then there will be confusion and if it’s too little there won’t be any direction.
I use these moodboards so both me and the client can get a understand of where I want to take and a easy way for the client to get initial input and ask questions. I always urge the client to not think about and only give me a first impression or feel. Clients can sometimes wonder a bit why I’m doing it but I know that if I don’t there will be problems down the line, so I rather explain what it’s about than skip it.
After the initial feel conversation he pointed out what he liked, what colors he liked and asked me question about why I was showing him this. As I said it might sound counterintuitive to spend time explaining when you can start to work, but I would never skip this step unless I’m extremity familiar with the brand and even then I make a moodboard for myself.
The concept that I started working on was easily accessible and nothing that would clutter up the screen with nonsense. AP Gaming aims to be a professional brand and not something that’s built on hype but rather something that will stand the test of time and looking at the big picture.
As far as colors go I went with three White, Orange and Gun Gray. There was no need to add anything else and from the moodboard you see that these colors was already in the back of my head during that phase. I would recommend to always keep colors to a minimum. Remember the Show overlays I mentioned earlier that AP Gaming didn’t think we could fit into the budget? I agree we couldn’t make something for all the shows, that would go way over budget and end up being very expensive if we would use the same skeuomorphic style that I’ve used on shows like RollPlay. The solution was simple replace the orange with Sky Blue. It will maintain the same branding as AP Gaming’s regular content but will be separated by the color, that way you know when it’s Sky Blue it’s time for a roleplaying show and when it’s orange it’s regular content time.
To the right you can see the first Preview I sent over to AP Gaming when I had most of the cards ready. When you look at the final version you will be able to see that not much changed but a few problem solving issues that became apparent during pre-testing (I’ll talk more about that in the Final section). The viewer gets a strong indication of where things are with the help of arrows and iconography. Keeping the visual identity of AP Gaming’s avatar highlighted and big.
Here (Preview 2) you can also see the banners (for Twitch and YouTube) and the panels. The reason why the banners are not identical, and why they shouldn’t be identical, is because they’re deigned two different platforms and different dimensions. It wouldn’t work with a bright Orange on a Twitch banner, instead using the orange as a complimentary color giving it that sleek look without clashing with the Twitch content while it still works with the rest of the visual identity. YouTube presents an additional issue and that’s the way the banners scales depending on what format it’s viewed on. From table to TV it has to have the same feel, but having a TV screen filled with the color Orange would be a bit much. Therefor when you go into TV mode you have the Gun Gray back in play, that way it will be balanced properly and still maintain the Twitch branding that we’ve used.
If you look at the middle one on Preview 1, you can see a gap before the next one starts. The reason for this is the highlight pop-up that covers the screen when you’re offline. I still don’t know why some put important information behind that. Putting stuff behind that should be done with care and understanding that a lot of people won’t see it.
The panels are made in two different styles yet keeping the same iconography and the flat design. Most important for me was to show what was clickable and what wasn’t. In this case anything that is clickable are on solid color or have a little chain link icon in the upper right. That way even at a glance the UX shows how it can be used but still leaving the sanctification of figuring it out since I’m not making a big fuzz about it being clickable.
When it comes to the logo let’s start by looking back at the moodboard and in the lower right you can see a few different characters. These are the basis for what I created for AP Gaming. I used a photo of AP Gaming as reference. Using my drawing tablet to get down a rough sketch with no colors in Photoshop before I export it to Illustrator. Keeping the same flat style as for the rest of the visual identity and giving it depth by adding in shadows but no gradients. I do all my final work in Illustrator that way I can have a illustration that can be any size from stamp to giant poster, it’s part of my workflow and not really something that’s a must. Trust me I’m a lot better organized when it comes to my Photoshop layers then I am with my Illustrator layers (I’m working on a article that outlines different program packages from free, medium and high-end. Both for video editing, graphics and motion graphics).
Here you can see the very final version, not much have changed but a few things that I think I need to point out and also talk a bit more about the show overlay and the problem solving behind that and usage of GIMP.
The main thing that I need to re-think form the first preview was how AP Gaming captures his clock. He doesn’t use a OBS plugin for it but rather use a screen capture to use it. He had been using chroma key to make it transparent but we quickly noticed that the green screen leaked a lot and it generally didn’t look good. The fix was to simply put a white rectangle behind it. This was AP Gaming can quickly add the clock without having to worry about having to set anything up or messing with settings in a plugin.
Another important thing that I changed was to make AP Gaming avatar face towards the schedule. It might not sound as if it’s a big thing but it is. The reason why is because we tend to follow eyes, and even if it’s a avatar it will still show you where to look without having to point it out and your eyes will automatically be drawn towards the schedule.
With the show overlay it was important to make something that was customization and flexible, that way AP Gaming can adapt it and add new shows without having to come back and pay more. Yet again using simple iconography that easily can translate over to any genre or game. It’s actually four different setups from three man up to six man games complete with dice. map, main and stats cards.
Lastly I want to mention that AP Gaming doesn’t own Photoshop and therefor couldn’t edit the text. I know that you can open PSD files in GIMP but if you’re using certain techniques it break.. I solved this by saving out the PSD files to transparent PNG files and then importing those PNG files into GIMP. Then in GIMP I created text templates, making it easy for AP Gaming to edit and save out new files. It’s a extra step but it works but next time I do something similar I think I’m going to try out Pixlr and see how that works compared to GIMP.
I realize that there are almost 2000 words in this article but I hope someone can get something out of it. As always if you have any questions, feedback or want someone to talk with get at me @visiblespeech on Twitter. I’m going to keep posting articles (just reached 2000 words) every Wednesday and Friday, all related to Twitch streaming in someway. I already have three other articles ready and have started another one.