Emojis for IPL

Digital illustration & Branding

For IPL 2018, we at Hotstar wanted to create an immersive viewing experience for our audience. We wanted to create something that in addition to taking the match to them, brought them closer to the game by allowing them express themselves the way they might whilst watching the match live in a stadium.
One way to do this was to create a pack of emoji made up of cricketing emotions and moments, topical reactions, (and, to our sales team’s delight,) even branded icons; all this designed especially for the fans to react to the matches in real time, reminding them that even though they may be watching by themselves, they were by no means watching alone.

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Why emoji?

Well, why not? They’re everywhere.
They’re in your chats, apparel*, the latest tattoo trends, and entirely unwatchable movies that even Patrick Stewart couldn’t save.
Their popularity is on a steady upward climb, and only growing, in part due to their ubiquity in modern communication, and the rest because they’re so damn cute. This upward trend, coupled with the ease of expression that they provide, live emoji seemed like an idea we could bet on.

The Design Process 

Major influences for the set of emoji — both in the way of form, as well as function — came from live reaction buttons across Facebook, Periscope, and Bigo Live.

The aesthetic itself was slated to be clean, minimal, yet playful, and synergic with the platform’s own aesthetic. 
We reached out to designers and animators as far out as South Africa (in an attempt to limit ourselves to cricketing nations, because we’d hate to have to refer to it as baseball, but the rules are different, and the game itself is actually exciting.) But in a fine exemplification of Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer was the best one, and so we got to work designing the emoji in-house.
We only had three months to design, develop, and deploy these emoji — and Watch ‘N Play — and a whole lot of limitations including but not limited to BCCI guidelines not permitting anything to be displayed over the match feed, platform real estate, and virtually no precedent for something like this being done at this scale.

We started out with the three things we knew:
1. We would need a happy face, a heart, a six, a four, and an out.
2. What yellow is to unicode emoji, our platform colour (green) would be to our pack.
3. Our emoji needed to be — above all — recognisable and relatable. Even at a tiny 20X20 pixels.

Additionally we retained two primary elements from our brand guideline — the bright green ad the primary colour, and Gibson as the typeface of choice.

Draft 1

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Draft 2

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The first round of designs, while rudimentary, set the tone for what we wanted, and more importantly for what we didn’t want.
The designs needed dimension and polish. Additionally, they needed to be both — round and cuddly, as well as sharp and sporty.
Gradients, we realised, were how we were going to be able to solve for the above.

Shaping it down

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As the worked our way down the list, we recognised the need for more colours. As we were simultaneously designing for Watch ‘N Play, we pooled our resources and agendas to work out a distinct colour palette that did both — stand out, as well as blend in. What’s even better than gradients, you ask? Why, gradients in pop-pastel, of course!

Finally, we needed something to bind our little babies together, and make sure each individual unit was as visible on dark backgrounds as light ones, and so we added a thick black outline to each of the icons, except the faces (to keep them looking cute and cuddly, whilst not loosing detail. This went a long way in creating a cohesive design language across the set, and increasing visibility across backgrounds and sizes.
And so, we had our palette. And soon, our entire pack was a flurry of bright colour and relatable emotion, waiting to be tap-tap-tapped on.

We asked ourselves some tough questions along the way — as most young parents do, we wondered what colour the poop should be.
We laboured over debates like, ‘are wayfarers still cool?’ or ‘does the fire look too threatening?’ and took bets on whether the ball on fire would be used more to connote a fast ball or a powerful shot hit out of the park. We also pondered on whether eggs or tomatoes were more likely to be thrown at an innings going south (eggs won 3–1 by show of hands).

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Watch'n Play logo

Logo designed for the online game where you can play along with the live match by just predicting what's going to happen next.

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Branded emoji

The project was fun, but it wasn’t all fun and games. Sponsored emoji helped us work with brands like Coke, VIVO, and Vodafone, to leverage the popularity of the IPL to create buzz for themselves.

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