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Esports fashion with Emily Rand: A look at Cloud9's logo and legacy

The Cloud9 legacy jersey is an homage to the team's mid-2013 roots and aims to recreate the fun, vibrant aesthetic that team had. Provided by Cloud9

Cloud9's former League of Legends squad members locked in classic picks for their first two draft rotations: Zyra, Ashe and Zed. Their ban strategy spelled out T-S-M, a mild taunt at their opponents in a classic showmatch July 17 against former Team SoloMid players. It was unlike any blue side rotation that you'd see in current competitive play.

"People want to watch this match because they want to reminisce about what happened, right?" former Cloud9 mid laner Hai "Hai" Du Lam said of their champion picks. "I wanted to pick something that people would enjoy."

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The result itself, a convincing Cloud9 win over a classic Team SoloMid lineup with Joedat "Voyboy" Esfahani presumably subbing in for Andy "Reginald" Dinh, was unexpected. Regardless of how these teams had matched up in the past, the majority of the Cloud9 players still regularly play solo queue. William "Meteos" Hartman was still playing in the League of Legends Championship Series until recently. The point of this exhibition between legacy teams of Cloud9 and Team SoloMid wasn't the result, or the champion picks, as Hai reiterated, but nostalgia for an era gone by for both teams.

Legacy in League of Legends esports is often nebulous. Rarely is there a time of year when the game isn't played. Competitive splits pass by in an instant, creating an environment where a split can feel like a year, even in a single-game format like the one LCS has employed for most of its existence.

We start asking if a team can be a dynasty after one split of success. Currently, this question is being asked of a Cloud9 team that had complete dominion of the LCS spring split and is poised to take another LCS title this summer.

Cloud9 have rarely struggled under the weight of their own legacy, even when the team itself was not performing well. And like the initial Cloud9 lineup of Hai, Meteos, An "Balls" Le, Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi and Daerek "LemonNation" Hart, the brand of Cloud9 is one of the few that has evolved past the split-by-split performance of a League of Legends team into something immediately recognizable with a rare staying power.

When Cloud9 Lead Graphic Designer Cory Heimbecker designed the first Cloud9 logo, he wasn't thinking about legacy. He just wanted to take a chance in submitting something to a team he loved. When Cloud9 were making their way toward qualifying for the NA LCS in mid-2013, Heimbecker was working at Best Buy. He submitted his logo design to Cloud9 founder Jack Etienne on Twitter.

"I was a couple years out of college. I was doing a lot of freelance work, and I was really into League of Legends," Heimbecker said. "When Cloud9 was going through the promotional tournament, I didn't see a logo."

Heimbecker describes his creation, one of the most iconic logos in Western esports, as something that "just happened."

"You can have a logo that you're supposed to design for and you do 50 iterations, and it's not perfect," Heimbecker said. "But with Cloud9, I only had a couple of iterations, and the one you see today was the first one that I had.

"You see a lot of logos in the esports scene where they are just very obvious. I wanted something that was one step further. You had to think about it for a half-second more, and I wanted something very memorable. The Cloud9 logo is this symbol that looks good on anything in any media, and it was intentional choice."

Heimbecker's career with the Cloud9 organization and the origin story of the signature 9's that form the cloud in the Cloud9 logo are oddly fitting with the Cloud9 legacy. From the beginning, the original Cloud9 team marketed themselves as a group of friends having fun playing League of Legends. They joked around with each other and gave a house tour where the toilet was clogged and bot laner Sneaky may or may not have been living in the closet of one of his teammates bedrooms. The business side of Cloud9's marketing is a bit more calculated than happening into a team that worked well together, but this is the legacy that has stuck, and it wouldn't have worked without a bit of initial luck and chemistry.

The logo for Cloud9 has never changed, despite myriad iterations of the jersey design, including their latest 2020 Cloud9 legacy jersey with focus on the initial blue and white of the simpler blue Cloud9 T-shirt and white Cloud9 hoodie days of 2013.

"When I started in 2013, I was designing the shirts," Heimbecker said. "Jack messaged me and was like, 'Hey, Cory, I need a shirt.' That's as simple as it was, and that's what started everything. Everything came from apparel."

Now with a Puma partnership and a significantly larger infrastructure than their inaugural 2013 LCS split, Heimbecker and Cloud9 combined the legacy of the team through color choice with a more standard football jersey, something that Heimbecker has always wanted to create.

"We've always wanted to do this, kind of a callback to the lighthearted style of the original Cloud9, and I knew we were going to do it but not when," Heimbecker said. "Having this whole callback with the old Cloud9 crew, it couldn't have happened more perfect timing-wise."

It's telling that even with what should be a more standard, serious jersey look, there are still elements of the fun that the Cloud9 brand itself is known for.

"Initially when I created the brand, it was in coordination with Hai and Jack and Jack's wife, Paullie, and we wanted to create this really positive, uplifting brand," Heimbecker said. "That was the main focus. That's really the feeling we were trying to capture there, the positivity and fun."