For those following along in my semi-chronological / semi-biographical work-history blog this next post deals with another project from my first year as a product designer. In between my earlier catalog project and this one there was a lot of time spent working on prototypes for other projects; handles for flashlights, handles for portable commodes, handles for industrial equipment...There was one office renovation assignment that broke up some the handle development at one point but it was mostly handles for me. Granted everyone has to start somewhere, and the firm I was working for didn't just design the handles they did the whole product - I was just the go to guy for handles apparently.
When this next project came to the studio it looked pretty rough. It was a homemade board game that a family had made out of cardboard and popsicle sticks they called “Spiderwebs.” The game play was a little bit like tic-tac-toe with game pieces that would remind you of the Tetris video game. It was a bit awkward in that it worked best when 4-people played, and the scoring was complicated. Despite that the game was fun and the family that invented it felt like they had something worth consulting with a product designer to try and bring to market.
Being charged with the design and development of this product consisted of 2 primary components. One was the overall look, the second the design of the actual pieces. The look was the easy part, although the original concept had a Spiderweb on the board it was drawn over a very clearly defined grid. As we played the game out a few times over several lunch breaks it became clear that there were in actuality 4 quadrants to the board and where the borders met were the most coveted spots for scoring. We realized the web was irrelevant and it made much more sense to organize the board graphically around these scoring zones. With that the board took on a new identity.
With the new look the game needed a new name and since the main scoring objective was the act of creating a closed square with you pieces, “squaring it”, Square-It seemed like a good fit. A conceptual logo was developed and instructions drafted up so we could introduce the game more easily to different users for testing.
With the graphic identity of the game more or less figured out multiple rounds of testing the game play went on to try to see if there were any issues that weren’t covered in the instructions. Simultaneously there was research and development going into the best method of producing the actual game pieces and board. There were some tricky requirements for the pieces; they needed to be easy to handle; they needed to “lock” into position somehow on the board; they needed to overlap. Several iterations of pegs, slots, and notched designs were explored and costs analyzed to present the client with options.
Unfortunately this project never made it past these early design studies, at least not to my knowledge. I think this was a situation where the client sought out a designer but really wanted a manufacturer to take their exact concept to market. I remember they weren’t happy with the design solutions presented but the studio stood by the hours of research and development aimed at increasing ease of use and mass-production feasibility. In hindsight this game would actually make a better screen based game more than a traditional board game, but it was a nice break from designing handles… It would be the last project I worked on for this firm under the title Product Designer, I accepted an offer to work as a Exhibit Designer shortly after ending my nearly 2-year run with that product design firm.
When I was originally planning this particular post I had thought about trying to segue into discussion about gamification in exhibits and possibly share some educational game development and game related resources, but I outside of a few Pinterest boards I couldn't get the content far enough along to get this post done on time. As I work my way through the next decade and a half of projects on this blog there will definitely be a few projects with good examples of elements of game play being used to convey educational. If anyone has anything they'd like to share to these themes feel free to leave comments.
In two weeks I'll be back with what will be my first exhibit project and the beginning of the next 16-year long chapter of my career.