As I sit down to write this, I’m also wrapping up a project for a client, updating overlays for another, in the midst of working with yet another streamer and commencing contract work for a new streamer client. This isn’t bragging, I just want to give you an image of the amount of work that actually goes on out there – and this is only for graphics.
The Wild-West Twitch
As you might know I’ve been doing this for a few years now. I’ve noticed giant leaps, but also some similarities, during these years.
When I first entered, Twitch looked like a MySpace version of a live YouTube. Glitter, absurd HTML, flashing images and even spinning signs on streamer profiles were abundant. It was like the Wild West. I remember there was an outcry from the streamer community when Twitch went over to its new and current layout. The streamers felt as there was no room for streamer personality in the new Twitch we see today. The Glitter, HTML, the flashing images, animations and general MySpace-look of the whole thing were gone in one swoop. Naturally the streamers, having spent hard-earned money or valuable time on these things, protested.
However, one voice in particular was not given attention: the voice of the people behind the work, the graphic artists. Finding work a new industry and working with streamers wasn’t going to be easy. Overlays was something that was seldom used, on-screen follower, sub and donation notifications didn’t exist and there was an overall lack interest in creating anything beyond what already existed, since you could put everything in your profile.
I was one of the graphics artists. Was I mad? No. I knew a unified Twitch meant that creativity would flourish and start to claim its space. Problems caused by the change in design had to be solved quickly, as Twitch had notified the streamers about the change in advance. Many artists’ and coders’ income diminished, but I still think that the policy change was the best move that Twitch could have made at the time. The Wild-West era was over and we entered a new era where professionalism took the stage.
And then what?
I know only a handful of artists and coders who chose to stay around after the change. One has to understand that at the time, regular artists or coders were few and far between. It wasn’t an oddity when someone disappeared after a day or two. A professional behind-the-scenes community was virtually non-existent. Back then the artist’s main role was as a technician. We were told what to do and we did it, with little to no room for creativity and academic input. We didn’t solve any real problems and we didn’t add any particular value above and beyond what we were told to do. We made and maintained the infrastructure, and up to this day, this describes (in my experience) the majority of the people behind the streamer.[pullquote]
“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.”
― Ella Fitzgerald[/pullquote]
Streamers and ‘technicians’ had to find a new way of displaying their personality and skill. A direct consequence of the layout change was that the focus turned to the actual stream and streamer.
And just like that, there was space to add value. Personal branding began to emerge and alongside a new take on visual branding, the first baby-steps were made. Yet the gap between professional and amateur was still very much evident.
As these events unfolded, my understanding of how a stream works increased, and with that my professionalism. I was no longer a technician – I had become someone whose judgment you could trust, someone who could provide academic input. I understood a streamer’s personal branding and therefore could adapt a new visual brand (or even a complete re-branding). Remember in part 1, where I mentioned that the streaming scene is no longer about the streamer but rather about the community/viewers. If you want to be a professional, that’s where you have to direct your work. You’re adding value for both the viewers and the streamer. For me, this was the kindle that sparked my fire and gave me the direction I needed in my professional life.
OBS enters the fight
If you want to discuss the industry growing and jobs being created, you can’t exclude Open Broadcaster Software, or OBS. With the introduction of OBS, streaming became a household activity and thousands joined in. The artists-turned-technicians-turned-artists became aware of OBS as a platform to use for developing new content. There were developers around me, new plugins to understand and figure out how to make the most out of, with their sometimes limited implementations of graphic capabilities. The gap between professional and amateur was still very much alive. My hypothesis is that a lot of graphics were created for specific streamers’ branding and personality, while the plugins were aimed at anyone and everyone capable of installing them.
As mentioned before, streamers had started to get a better understanding of how to take care of their personal brand, and graphic designers had begun to take on the task as artists rather than technicians. After all, they had co-existed and grown together since the beginning. The developers, coders, programmers etc. had just entered not long prior to the layout change, however when something (or someone) is that far behind, it will try to catch up, and catch up it did. This game of catch-up resulted in yet another part of the industry taking root. We began to see an organized structure behind popular and profiled streamers.
Today we can see bigger projects being made – both web-based and standalone solutions that help the streamers in different ways. However, specialized and custom-tailored programs and applications designed to benefit one particular streamer are becoming more common. We even have entire systems being developed that will probably only be useful for one single streamer. I believe that this is only going to grow, as it did with graphics, and we’re going to see more use custom made-to-fit work rather than something designed for the masses. Now, since system development is very time consuming has more moving parts, the need for some degree of communication between every part is increasing. Without even thinking about it, and looking at the future, I can say this: there are going to be people who can both organize and administer projects. I’ve done my best, but it’s not my forte, but at this rate it probably will be something I can add to my arsenal. On one hand I think it’s great. After all it contributes to my portfolio. On the other hand, it results in less time spent on actual design and the work I love.
There is no doubt in my mind that there already exists a need for help behind the scenes, be it volunteer work or paid work, so there is definitely going to be more job opportunities in this newly arisen industry. On the top of my head there are several positions I’m in need of, and a few I’m certain several popular streamers would benefit from hiring. It might take a while for some of these to become a reality, but they’re not unthinkable. Here are some examples:
- Branding Consultant
- Community Manager
- Art Director
- Project Manger
- Production Manager/Assistant
As stated, these are off the top of my head. What I really want to say with this, is that there are going to be, and already are, positions that can be taken or created. Don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be afraid to create and to add value, where we might not even know it’s needed.
We need to network better, we need to be professional, act professional, we need to teach, we need to think about our process and we need to think about our own future in the industry. Exactly like streamers can’t rely on Twitch being around forever neither can we.
It might feel difficult, challenging or even impossible to make the transition to a more professional state when everything in and around your stream was, and in some regards still are, very DIY. The saving grace is when the entire structure is making that transition together: you will start to grow as one.
With the amount of projects and streamers I sign with, I can no longer do everything myself. There’s simply not enough time to do administration, design, project management and other aspects at once. The sooner the industry structure improves and more positions to fill, the better. The less time a streamer has to spend on other things being a personality on camera/mic, the better. If I can worry less about these aspects of business, more quality goes into my creating visual identity and branding. I’m not afraid of lack of growth – I’m afraid that the backdrop won’t manage to keep up with the industry going forward.
In part three I’m going to talk more in-depth in how I got my job(s) and how you might be able to find your place in this industry, right now and in the near future. This part might take a bit longer to complete since I want to write case studies on two recent projects before it. They won’t delay it more than a few days but wanted you to know.
If you have any questions, comments or something in particular you want you to go into? Do let me know on Twitter @visiblespeech
As special thanks to @ for helping out with my English.