Layer 6 from the Thomas/Weaver Match.

Layer Tennis How It All Went Down

Backstage With Mark Weaver

by Andrew Huff

A match for the ages, design pros Scott Thomas and Mark Weaver played a game full of biting wit, clever subtlty and perfectly selected quotes. Weaver was in top form throughout, quickly turning the match to his favor and winning over the crowd with his particularly cutting final three volleys. We sat down with Mark shortly after the game had ended to get his thoughts.

So, first time in Layer Tennis Stadium. How do you think it went?

I think it went well. Can't say that I wasn't a little nervous going into it, but once I was in there, I felt pretty comfortable. Fifteen minutes goes by quickly, so you really don't even have time to think. You just react and go with your gut.

Some players prep a sort of "toolbox" of imagery and elements before play, others prefer working without a safety net. Where did you come down on that spectrum?

I have an Illustrator file filled with random vector images that I've created over the years and folders filled with Creative Commons images. I was prepared to use them during the match and they came in handy a few times. It's good to have some things prepared so you can spend more time on the concept and less on production.

Commentator John Gruber said in the match intro that your "Make Something Cool Every Day" project was perfect practice for Layer Tennis. Do you agree?

Yeah, I do. The idea was to create a composition that was visually pleasing without spending too much time on it. It's really was like playing Layer Tennis by yourself, so that definitely helped me out in the match.

What was your reaction to Scott's initial layer?

I thought it was a strong first volley, but I was a little thrown off that it was comprised entirely of typography. So I took what he had made and reinterpreted it with other elements (brains, arrows) and got rid of most of his typography.

Scott really pushed the quotes as a major element, but by the end it seemed as though you'd wrestled it away from him.

With Scott's first volley, he set the tone of the match. It was all about sharing ideas and we volleyed quotes and ideas throughout the whole match. Not sure that I wrestled it away from him, but I think the quotes worked well for both of us.

Your Layer 6 seemed to be the game changer. What inspired the super-minimalist move -- and where did you come with the image? (For whatever reason, it reminded me of the back of an Imperial Stormtrooper.)

Scott's previous layer quoted Marshall McLulan: "Art is anything you can get away with." My immediate thought was, "What can I get away with in this next volley?" I wanted to make a little piece of art in the center of the canvas that reflected the quote. So I created a minimal, abstract piece that was inspired by '60s jazz album covers. It's just basic shapes and lines, but what is it exactly? What does it mean? Is it art?

Did you expect it to throw Scott off guard?

Yeah, maybe a little bit. He surprised me a few times, especially on Volley 7. I wasn't really sure what to make of it, but that's the fun of Layer Tennis. You really don't know what your opponent will volley back to you.

The red dot shows up in a number of your "Make Something Cool..." series, and it showed up again here. What's the attraction?

Honestly, I don't know what it is about that red dot. I guess it just feels right to me. It first showed up in my Volley 6, but Scott was the first one to use it as a dominant focal point in the Volley 7. That's one element that I think I wrestled away from him in my last two volleys.

The colors you used seemed bolder than your typical palette, too. Was that a factor of expediency, or just a reaction to what Scott was throwing at you?

The yellow and red palette towards the end was a reaction to what he was throwing at me. My Volley 4 was pretty bold, but that red and blue is one of my favorite color combos.

Any final thoughts about the match?

Had a blast playing! It was a great match that felt more like a collaboration with Scott than us trying to outdo each other. Hope to play again sometime.

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