Last week two New York based designers and Behance users competed against each other in the season opener of a match of creativity. Known as Layer Tennis, this contest is the “rap battle” of visual arts, in which two competitors face off through the layering of an illustration. Originally coined Photoshop Tennis, Layer Tennis began at Coudal Partners when a few creatives traded a Photoshop document back and forth taking turns adding layers. Coudal Partners brought the game live to their website, and it has had a following ever since. With the help of Adobe Creative Cloud, the idea has expanded, with 3 full seasons of matches.
So, what are the rules?
A coin toss decides which artist begins the battle, giving the winner an edge and complete artistic freedom to create the first image as he/she pleases. The artists pass the file back and forth in real time, with fifteen minutes to complete a “volley,” adapting the presentation of the image as they go. There are ten volleys in a match, allowing the last image to be as the last word in a game of telephone is, entirely different from the first! All the while, a third contributor is providing play-by-play commentary of the action.
So, who are the players?
The players are not only limited to designers; they may be animators, illustrators, or whatever else. To open up the fourth season Jon Contino was up against Dan Cassaro. As commentator Rosecrans Baldwin put it, the two have a ton in common. “Both have their own studios. Both love lettering, full stop. Both are natives of New York City, multitalented, multifaceted, and they each appear to dabble in pretty much everything a designer can do.”
Meet Jon Contino Meet Dan Cassaro
As his own biography says, he is known for his You may recognize his name – He is the designer
“unique style, which combines old and new world who publicly ousted Showtime for asking him, let
aesthetics into a modern, minimalist style.” He alone other artists, to work for free. Clearly an
has worked on advertisements, branding, advocate for creatives, he owns a studio, Young
illustrations, lettering, packaging, product designs, Jerks, “with a focus on type, lettering, logo design,
publications, signage, and if that is not enough to and powerful 70s rock and roll.”
convince you to check this match out, he is founder
of a menswear and accessories company as well.
Meet Rosecrans Baldwin (The Commentator)
He hails from Los Angeles, giving a West Coast perspective to an East Coast
match up. He is a writer, whose works have appeared in The New York Times,
New York Magazine, The Nation, as well as other well known publications.
He has a lot of experience in Layer Tennis, as he was the first commentator
in the sport’s history. If that does not have you hooked, he also trained for a
qualifier for the US Open and recounted his tale to GQ.
Rosecrans Baldwin takes you through the match with commentary, which is witty with just the right amount of importance. It will keep you enthralled throughout each volley as he takes you behind the scenes, talking to the players and getting their insight. The volleys are ruthless; containing personal attacks as well as collaboration. Jon Contino won the coin toss and began the match with “A FIGHT TO THE DEATH.” The following few volleys were Long Island related, ending with Dan Cassaro cutting one of Jon Contino’s logos into a bloody half. From that point on, it was personal; Dan put an eagle’s head on Jon’s body; Jon made fun of Dan’s love of cut-offs; Jon put a dog’s head on Dan’s body. But in the end, Dan came to the conclusion “MAYBE WE’RE NOT SO DIFFERENT AFTER ALL.” The results are yet to be announced, but take a look at the match to get the whole picture!
So, how do I play?
It is super easy! Just post your best work or a sample match to Behance with the tag
“LayerTennisQualifier,” or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!