Interview with Sydney, The Guard Graphic Designer
Yoann: Hey, hello, everyone! Today, I'm with Sydney, the graphic designer for The Guard!
Sydney: Hey! As you said, my name is Sydney and I am the graphic designer for The Guard!
I taught myself to design in 2015 and have been designing in esports ever since.
Yoann: All right, how did you get into graphic design?
Sydney: It was actually an accident. I was really big into Minecraft with my friend in middle school, and we were building a server together. We needed graphics, and I was like, Oh, I can do that, that sounds really easy! I used a free trial of Photoshop and did it. And I was like, Okay, this is actually kind of fun!
So I started doing a lot of design stuff for Minecraft and then eventually discovered esports.
Yoann: Did you study graphic design at school?
Sydney: I actually went to college as an engineer. I thought design was like a hobby, a thing I did on the side just to make some money through college.
And so I actually went as a mechanical engineer for a semester. But I was super bored with mechanical engineering. And I noticed that a lot of times I was rushing through my homework so I could get to design stuff. And I was like, Well, that's probably a good indicator that I actually want to do design full-time!
And luckily the school that I was at, had a design program, so I was able to transfer majors and start doing that.
Yoann: Great! Which software are you using?
Sydney: My main ones right now are Photoshop, After Effects, and Blender 3D. I sometimes will use other stuff like Illustrator or Davinci when I'm coloring 3D.
Yoann: What's your routine or process to create designs for The Guard?
Sydney: I think the main stuff I usually do for them is the match day posters, those are probably one of my favorite things that I do, and they definitely depend a little bit on who we're playing.
I try to always follow the storyline. This year, there has been a lot with M80, as we are the top two teams in challengers. But there have also been some new teams with content creators like Moist Moguls and DSG they have some pretty good storylines as well.
But sometimes you don’t have any storyline, so you just have to do like something cool.
We have this guard character and we can just have them fighting some kind of beast or monster.
Yoann: That’s so cool! How do you find inspiration to create new art every single time? You said through the storylines, but is there anything more to that?
Sydney: Yeah, I recently saw Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse and that really inspired me. That film is amazing and I think three of the four posters I did for playoffs are inspired by this film in some way.
I follow a lot of designers, studios, or just other authors in general and try to absorb as much as possible. I try to surround myself with a lot of good inspiration.
Yoann: That's super interesting because Vegod told me the same when I interviewed him. Trying to get inspiration from series, films, and art in general around him. I don't know if you know him, he’s creating skin concepts, he worked with Sentinels for their Vandal skin!
Sydney: Oh, gosh, yeah, I think I've seen him!
Yoann: What's the project you are the proudest of right now?
Sydney: It would probably have to be the teaser trailer I did for the Valorant roster reveal video at the beginning of the year. I had been working on the design direction for Valorant 2023 since our season ended in 2022 and had a whole 3D environment, motion graphics, and agent animations ready to use in the match day graphics. So I offered to make a teaser that would incorporate some of the stuff I had been doing to take some of the lift off of the video team. It was super fun to do and for my only 2nd 3D video ever I thought it turned out pretty good. I also think this project is a perfect example of how far I have come with 3D. I know a lot of my stuff specifically at The Guard has been 3D, but I really only knew the basics when I joined in January of 2022. Every project I did in 2022, I didn't know how to do it before I started - I just kinda jumped in. But this was one of the first projects I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how to do it.
Also, I think usually in esports most projects are pretty rushed as sometimes you don't know the dates for something or you have to wait to see if your team qualifies for whatever the event is. So most projects feel rushed or are tiresome to do because you are basically speed running it. And when you are working with 3D sometimes it can mean you have to work even longer hours. But since this was kicking off the season, I had been working on this stuff for months. I had a bank of assets ready to go, so when it came to actually executing and making the video - it was actually super fun to do because I didn't need to waste time upfront with making the assets. I got to just have fun with using the assets I had already made.
Yoann: It looks amazing! Let's now switch to the quick questions. I'll ask you ten quick questions, and you’ll have to answer as fast as possible!
Phantom of Vandal?
Yoann: What's your favorite tool in Photoshop?
Sydney: Oh, that's a fantastic question. Select subject, because it saved me an immense amount of time, having to cut people out!
Yoann: Who's your favorite agent?
Yoann: Nice, me too! Can you name the 7 teams that won an international event?
Sydney: Oh, Jesus. Sentinels, Fnatic, Acend, Loud, Optic… I don't know if I remember the last two.
Yoann: Gambit and I think you forgot FPX.
Sydney: Oh yeah, I forgot about Gambit. That was such a good team.
Yoann: What's your favorite skin collection?
Sydney: The Reaver collection, especially the Phantom. I don't have the vandal. But I love the Reaver Phantom.
Yoann: Classic art or digital art?
Sydney: Digital art. I think classic art is beautiful. I could never do it, I think I like digital art better because it offers a lot more possibilities.
Yoann: What's your favorite map?
Yoann: How would you describe your own art in a few words?
Sydney: Sporadic chaos!
Yoann: Great! What kind of music do you listen to while creating art?
Sydney: Honestly, all kinds. I really just put on my for you on Spotify and let it just play whatever. It’s better if I don't know the lyrics of the song because I'll be too into the song and not actually designing!
So I try to listen to songs that I don't actually know so that it's just kind of like background noise.
Yoann: Yeah, that makes sense! Can you quote the voice line from Cypher?
Sydney: “G-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-give me a corpse!”
Yoann: Awesome! So let's get back to the standard questions.
How often are you playing Valorant in your free time?
Sydney: Not as much as I would like. I love Valorant and I played it right when the beta came out, and I've been playing it since. But if we're in a tournament, and we play every single day, I have to make a poster for the next day.
I get locked into the work that I'm doing, so I can't play. But I try to play as much as I can.
Yoann: What are your hobbies or passions aside from gaming or arts in general?
Sydney: I love soccer. I played it in college as well. I tore my ACL, so I've been kind of on a break for a little bit. I really love snowboarding as well, I used to ski, but I really got into snowboarding when I moved out to California and absolutely love it. I love hiking and anything outdoors. I just love being outside. I started doing kickboxing too!
Yoann: What are you doing to prevent burnout or overworking?
Sydney: I think that's hard sometimes. Especially with Valorant, if your team is doing well and they're winning, you're pretty much working for like two weeks straight to keep up with all the matches and you sometimes don't know who you are playing against until the day before.
So I try leaning on my hobbies, which have been kind of hard racing. Like I said, I tore my ACL so I couldn't do any of my hobbies because they were all me going outside and exercising. So I kind of like find other stuff to do. But I think it's just making sure you have something else that you can do, outside designing.
Because if you're just constantly designing and designing, you're going to feel burnout.
Like, if I can't figure out what to do for a poster and I'm just thinking about the poster, I would never figure out what to do. I always joke my coworkers that my best ideas come mid squat because when I work out, I'm so focused on counting my reps, I'm completely forgetting about what I'm designing, and I always get good ideas!
Yoann: How do you feel about the Valorant meta after the last changes?
Sydney: I love spraying through smoke, so this one really hurt me.
But I think Sage is incredibly strong now. I've never questioned breaking a wall or not all my life, and now I'm staring at this wall like, do I waste half of my ammo on this?
I'm interested to see how the reduction of ammo is in pro play because they spam a lot more than I would ever.
Also Chamber’s back, I think he's going to start making a resurgence because his trip is like the entire map now, which is kind of insane.
Yoann: Yeah, for sure! Who do you see winning in Tokyo?
Sydney: Oh, that's a fantastic question. I want Fnatic to win again. I'm a big Boaster fan. I just love how he plays and I also really like how he is as a person. But I would also love to see T1 win. I love Sayaplayer, he played for TheGuard last year. He was really great to work with.
Yoann: What would you change to the game if you were a Valorant developer?
Sydney: That's a great question that I'm extremely able to answer! As a Cypher fan, I think he's underpowered. I think his camera needs a gun. I think that his cages should detain people. I think his trip wires should instantly do 100 damage. And his ultimate should just have wall hacks. I think that will fix the game haha!
I have noticed that people have been playing Cypher a bit more recently. Justice for Cypher!
Yoann: I 100% agree! What are your short and long-term ambitions as a graphic designer?
Sydney: I love creating, and I want to continue making more and bigger stuff. I want to make everything. I just really like making stuff that people haven't seen before.
I think long term it's probably more going to be on leading and building a team. Not just like me doing everything. Right now I'm designing, I'm doing motion, I'm doing 3D and it's very fun.
But I think for my long term that's probably not a sustainable thing, but it'll probably get a team together and manage that.
But I'm very happy with just cranking out a bunch of work right now, to be honest!
Yoann: That's great! What would you tell someone willing to pursue graphic design full-time?
Sydney: I think it’s just building your skill set. I think just building the repertoire of things that you can use. If you're really good at Photoshop, that's great.
Photoshop is by far the most important software you're going to need.
But especially in esports, they also want motion and 3D.
So if you have that time to learn After Effects, Blender or Cinema 4D, or whatever the 3D program is, I think it's just super helpful because not only is it gonna make you more desirable when you're applying for jobs, but that makes you a better designer because instead of having to go find a perfect angle of a tree, you can just go in Blender and like render it yourself!
Yoann: That’s interesting! How do you feel about A.I. in graphic design?
Sydney: It's tough, because there are A.I. programs that designers, animators, and illustrators use all the time that help them. Like I'm pretty sure Select Subject in Photoshop is A.I. I love that tool because it saves me so much time.
But it gets dangerous when you are stealing other people’s art. When you are telling whichever A.I. program “Here is art by this person - make something else in their style.” When you are laying people off and using A.I. instead. A.I. can be a great tool for artists, but it should be just that - a tool. It should be saving you time by doing the tasks that aren't actually designing.
Yoann: Yeah, definitely! Is there anything else you would like to say?
Sydney: For the fans that support my work, and for my parents out there, I appreciate your support! You guys are always so nice in the comments about my work and I really appreciate it!
Yoann: Awesome, thank you for your time, and I wish you the best of luck in the future!
Sydney: Thank you, appreciate it!