Commentary by Kevin Guilfoile
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Week 13 Match Preview

2 Designers Enter...

When I was in junior high I was way into professional wrestling. Being too slight an adolescent to seriously consider a career as a grappler, I imagined myself as one day being more of an innovator of the sport. More like Vince McMahon than Rick Martel.

(Yes, I know I was a geek. Let he who did not once control a Chaotic Neutral Dwarven Fighter cast the first stone.) Anyway I would spend much of my free time sketching new WWF promotions in my social studies notebook and by far the most inspired of these was the "Iron Silo," where two fierce rivals would meet under Louisiana Prison Rules while the ten-story, air-tight cylinder in which they were fighting slowly filled up with corn.

That's what we have in this week's Layer Tennis match. Except instead of fierce rivals tearing each other apart in a steroidal rage, we have two really talented and sweet designers and illustrators who are actually even friends, having met several years ago at a conference in London.

The thing about the corn, though. We're actually doing that.

Cindy Li and Veerle Pieters are separated by more than 9,000 kilometers and the curvature of the earth's surface, but professionally they have much in common. Looking through their work, they clearly have similar design sensibilities as well as similar and lushly appealing illustrating styles. They are also both committed to the Web Standards Project, a self-described "grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all."

(This is an important subject and one that is dear to my heart, as well. In fact, I dedicate about fifteen hours each week to the same cause, every time somebody emails a funny joke to my dad and he prints it out and faxes it to me.)

Both competitors agree that Veerle's strengths include her sense of color and layout while Cindy's advantage today could be speed. Cindy in fact compares her design style to an AC Cobra, while Veerle describes her work as being more like "a vintage model with enough modern flair to satisfy" like a Mini-Cooper or a Beetle.

I don't know what it says for the match outlook that Cindy actually owns a Beetle and even knows how to take a wrench to it.

Finally, as someone who was working at Coudal Partners at the birth of Layer Tennis, who sat at the big desk with the stunning view of the Chicago skyline, the one Jason Fried always pretends to sit at whenever Time magazine stops by the office for a 37 Signals photo shoot, [ed. note: 37signals shares an office loft in Chicago with CP] and as someone who did commentary for many early matches in what is now known as the "Photoshop Era," I want to say up front that I have a particular bias regarding this event. A pet peeve. As Jim Coudal can attest, I get visibly angry whenever the competitors return to a particular, popular motif. To make things interesting, I'm not going to tell Veerle and Cindy what it is. But to make things fair, and because I like them very much, I promise not to get mad this time if it comes up. In fact the first one to tick me off by using this particular theme will win a prize: Issue No. 22 of the literary journal McSweeney's, a thick and beautifully designed, hardcover volume with poetry and short stories all bound together with magnets.

And now, as my imaginary announcer used to say at the start of every Iron Silo match, "LET'S POUR THE COOOOOOOORN!!!!


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