North American esports organization Evil Geniuses was founded in 1999, making the 21-year-old brand one of the oldest in the esports landscape.
A pantheon of successful, polarizing and popular esports professionals have been attached to Evil Geniuses, like Peter "ppd" Dager, who was the captain of EG's championship-winning Dota 2 team in 2015, or Starcraft II pro Gregory "IdrA" Fields. Evil Geniuses was a brand of winners who liked to talk about how good they were at their respective games and just how soundly they were going to beat you while winning.
"I gravitated towards EG because we were the bullies in a lot of ways," EG Chief Gaming Officer Phillip Aram said. He joined Evil Geniuses six years ago and has been with the company ever since. "We could be the heels, and it wasn't necessarily that we were out there doing things that were terrible. We were out there winning, and we were trying to win at any cost, and we were out there trying to be successful. And we were trying to be successful in North America, which was a great challenge."
Yet at the beginning of the year, the Evil Geniuses brand, despite solid results from its esports teams, was awkwardly bordering on forgettable -- the absolute worst place for a brand to be, especially one with the legacy and reach of EG.
And it was all thanks to a botched rebranding and a wordmark.
"We bungled it," Aram said. "I think that's the short and sweet way of putting it."
Now, the org going for another revamp.
On Wednesday, a design change years in the making for EG ended with a new logo to replace the wordart Evil Geniuses unveiled in December 2019. The logo is still a fair departure from the EG brand that fans were familiar with but tries to attach the brand's past to its sleek concept of what's to come for the organization.
Aram said new renditions of the EG logo have been in development since he joined the company years ago. Former Evil Geniuses CEO Alex Garfield and COO Colin DeShong were already tinkering with a new look when Aram moved to his role.
EG's design team, including Kevin Avegard and many others, went through hundreds and hundreds of logo designs. The traditional logo was discarded. It was inverted. It was beveled. It was flat. It was round. It was boxy. It circled from the round EG logo that any older EG Starcraft, Counter-Strike, Dota 2, or Call of Duty fan would recognize to something unrecognizable to a marriage of old and new in the final product.
Current Evil Geniuses CEO Nicole LaPointe Jameson joked that at one point in time, she felt that a third of her day was simply going through logo feedback and various design iterations. EG finally landed in what she thinks is a good spot and unveiled years of work on Wednesday.
"We were really excited, and they kept the boldness and unity of our old EG crest but also leaned into the revitalization of how EG breaks the margins," LaPointe Jameson said. "It was sharper and bolder, and incorporating those agitation-esque elements really reflected the qualitative side of our brand as more punchy, more pokey, more heels of the space, and it very visibly declares who we are. It's a good integration of where we came from but also gets us into spaces we need to be going forward."
The most important part for LaPointe Jameson, Aram, and the entire EG team during this second round of rebranding is that tricky balance between EG's legacy and their future in esports.
"Our fans and our community can't be lost. That's why we were able to survive. That's why we were able to be a sticky and long-tenured organization. So really it's about keeping that authenticity, keeping the connection because the fans voices are our voices while helping us get to all the doors we want to open and where we want to be going forward," LaPointe Jameson said. "It's a difficult problem to try to juggle and manage both of those universes but this is really the visual and brand movement into the melding of our legacy with our future."
During their first wave of rebranding and new marketing, Evil Geniuses removed their traditional circular EG logo without having a replacement for it while simultaneously launching the first step of their rebrand: a wordmark palindrome of "Live Evil."
"Our delivery expectations were not true and didn't resonate with the people that matter most: our beloved fans," LaPointe Jameson said. "And part of that was how we actually did the rollout. The wordmark was released and was very different not only from what we had been but also what you see in the space. While it conveyed the Evil Genius brand in terms of a visual style, it didn't touch upon enough of the legacy."
Esports fans and players from multiple titles along with other esports organizations reacted vocally and viscerally on Twitter and other social media platforms.
"We didn't handle it well. Obviously, whenever you have the community respond that strongly, you know you've made a mistake," Aram said. "Understanding that we'd made a mistake and understanding the why and how you go about correcting it are the really important things.
"We did a s---ty job of telling people that this was what we were thinking and it was a part of a longer-term process."
The organization had wanted the first part of their rebrand to coincide with Evil Geniuses' reappearance in the League of Legends esports space and the League of Legends Championship Series in North America.
Evil Geniuses' prior stint in the LCS was one result of the fracturing of popular European squad Counter Logic Gaming Europe, and EG's subsequent LCS results in 2014 of two seventh-place finishes were hardly cause to celebrate. That said, fans were thrilled to see their team give League another try. In an attempt to capitalize on the buzz, EG pushed out their new slogan and wordmark as soon as possible -- to immense backlash and ridicule.
"We still believed in what we wanted to do. We'd spent over a year iterating on the changes, and we came to a place where we wanted to roll things out with our entry into LCS and really have this brand voice," Aram said. "We really had to figure out how to differentiate in a way that still speaks to what we do. We loved the sense of 'Live Evil' and felt like it really represented our brand and our players, and we wanted to roll it out."
This new logo design, EG's new geometric jersey design, and the initially-maligned "Live Evil" slogan are all departures from the brand's past, but the org's leadership hopes they call back to what LaPointe Jameson, Aram, other EG staff members, fans, former players, former adversaries and the general esports space defined as EG.
"When we were first doing our brand articulation, we asked a lot of our alums who were part-players, part-other competitors, 'How do you perceive EG in the space?'" LaPointe Jameson said. "The team to beat. Not afraid to be punchy. Not afraid to be bold. [Those] were characteristics that really resonated. Really fleshing that out and curating an identity that leans into that explicitly was really exciting.
"It's a position. It's a stance. It cuts through a lot of the nebulousness of many teams that don't really have a defined 'here's who we are' outside of a team's existence."
Aram's description of Evil Geniuses from a legacy standpoint resonated with LaPointe Jameson's vision of EG's future.
"I want to watch winners, and that's always what tied me to EG -- that intrinsic desire to win and do whatever you had to do to figure out how to win," Aram said, "whether that be poaching your archnemesis or reinventing the rules of what is acceptable play in-game with all of the tools at your disposal."
Revamping the Evil Geniuses' branding was always going to be a massive undertaking. A legacy brand like EG has fans across multiple esports titles all over the world. That's a lot of inertia, especially when fan communities, and humans in general, are frequently resistant to change on principle. With this second stage in their rebrand, Evil Geniuses hope to have struck that balance between history and the future.