Now that you have come up with the idea of the game and have settled on the gameplay, next comes the phase where you transform your thinking into creative visuals: The Design Phase. Your thoughts will now be put into physically creating and designing your board game according to how you’d like it to look. You might think of the design phase as something really easy and fun to work with. Well, you might be right! It definitely is fun to use your creative juices into outlining the entire look of your game, unless you’re picky about colors, patterns, and ornamentation. Don’t worry! This stage is intended to be all about those intricacies!
First and foremost, after ideating about your game and before starting the design process, it is important to establish some key decisions like the name of the game, the final game components, the rules, and so on. You also need to finalize the name of your gaming components like the cards, pawns, tokens, wooden pieces, cubes, and disks, keeping in mind the theme of the game, so that they all are synced to provide the best result. Once all of those things are in place, you can kickstart the design phase.
Having a clear set of predetermined requirements can always be convenient and spare you from wasting time and energy in the future. The main responsibility you have is finding a graphic designer or illustrator who can make your design work easier, elegant, and smooth. It is your choice if you would like to pick someone who is within your board game team for this job or outsource it to someone outside of the team. What you’re looking for is superior quality, no matter who you decide to work with for this task. At times, the design idea might be conceived by you, and the artwork is done by the illustrator, or if you’re open to it, the designer could give in their inputs that you could look into. Making sure your requirements are in place and documented to the detail for the use of the designer is crucial so that there are no discrepancies in the latter stages. Besides the design requirements, it is good to have a list of logistics and production-related requirements along with the cost estimates. The key points to keep in mind for this are: what are the components? What is the quantity you need? What is the size or dimensions for them? And what is the quality of material you would like them to be created in? For example, you can ask for two dice of 18 millimeters, made of acrylic or wooden material. All these details need to be written down beforehand so that there is no last-minute scramble. Making these key decisions of what you need and what matters to you is always cardinal.
The design phase is characterized by two important elements- the fonts and colors you would like to use, be it on the box, the rule book, the components, or the cards. For colors, we personally used a go-to web-based tool called Coolors that came in very handy to design our board game Ettana. We highly recommend utilizing such websites to choose your preferred shades, as it comes with different color palettes and combinations that you can easily customize according to your penchant. You just need to make sure that the colors blend with the game theme. If you would like to be quirky and take a different road with the colors, that is all up to you. The main aim while working on the design is to save money, time, and effort. It is your job to do everything in sync with the designer and have the same thought process as them so that there is no double work in the future. When you finalize most of the design elements in advance, you can convey it to the illustrator or designer who will simply act upon the same.
The board game box is supposed to be the first thing that will catch a customer’s eye. The size, thickness, weight, and print area of the board game box need to be finalized according to your requirements. What you print on the box is very crucial, as that is what will attract the customer. People are wooed when it comes to beautiful colors, art, aesthetics, designs, and visuals. You need to do a fine job working on the box design, no matter how long it might take you to reach what you think is final and perfect. A quick, story-like, and creative description of the game along with images should be printed at the back of the box where most other board game descriptions are provided. It helps the customers know what the game is about in a jiffy because when they take a game off the shelves, the game description is the primary element that they scan the box for. The demographics of the game should be included on the box, i.e. the time taken to play the game, age limits, and the number of players that can play. International standard barcodes (EAN/UPC barcodes) need to be purchased which are to be printed on the box. The volumetric weight of the box which is based on the dimensions of the box needs to be calculated, the formula for which is - (length x breadth x height) ➗5000. This formula might differ depending on different countries. 5000 is accurate and used by most countries, while some use 4000. Did you know that before shipping, the volumetric weight or the actual weight, whichever is higher, is used to calculate the shipping cost? The box dimensions needs to be planned in such a way so that the board perfectly fits into the box and there are no inconsistencies. If the game does not deserve a very big board, you should not go for it as it can tamper with the logistics! According to the country that you manufacture your board game in, you may also have to consider printing the “metrological norms” on the lower side of the box. These norms are specific regulatory rules, requirements, laws for eg: providing the name of the publisher, where it was made, what is the price, what is the quantity and weight, what is in the box, toy safety, certifications, etc. This standard set of information varies according to the country and needs to be provided to adhere to government criteria.
Designing all the elements of the game requires some amount of planning, creativity, and decision-making. Some requirements that you could finalize, with relation to the board are its size, shape, what exactly is on it, the design that is on it, and what is on the bottom or behind it, among a few. At the end of the day, it is important to connect everything to the gameplay and theme of the game. Designing the size, shape, colors, features, count, and patterns of all the other printed gaming components like the front and back of cards, tokens, tiles, etc is vital. What would you like to see printed on these components? Is it an action, a denomination, or some instructions? Have you considered making the game components color-blind-friendly? The colorful components in your game box might pose distress and confusion for those who are color blind. It is difficult for them to then play the game, and recognize or differentiate between different components. Especially for a game that involves colors as the most primary aspect, you might want to consider making everything color-blind friendly so that it is inclusive for all to play. You need to also choose the quality of material that you would like to use, to create all your gaming components, and you can consult your designer about the same too. Remember that having something is better than nothing. Your designs do not need to be final if you’re confused, have second thoughts, or just do not know how to go about it, but you can always roughly note down what you envision. Ultimately, it is your ideas that will save a lot of time, energy, and money while having conversations and discussions with your illustrator.
The other set of components that you need to design besides the printed components are the dice, pawns, or plastic/wooden components of your game. Although these components can be provided to you by the illustrator, it is good to keep in mind that the designs for them work conveniently when you go ahead to illustrate them on the box or rulebook as well. As the creator of the board game, your thoughts need to be more futuristic. You should stay several steps ahead when it comes to designing all the elements and components. For the development of any board game, staying in the present will not get you anywhere, but staying ahead of time will help you achieve all your objectives. You have a lot of things to reflect upon like the logistics, marketability, appeal to the audience, the value, which all form a big part of the design phase and thus need to be tapped into instantly.
Another aspect that is important to look into is the design of the rule book. The rules are already ready by the end of the ideation phase and have been tweaked according to your liking. The focus now is on deciding how many pages the rule book should have, how descriptive the rules are, without keeping it too elaborate and making it simple for people to understand, and designing the overall art and imagery that is part of the rule book. You can refer to other board game rule books for inspiration on structuring so that you do not miss out on anything and know exactly what it should look like! It is better when the rule book is simply created in one language, depending on the language you prefer and the audience you are catering to. The complete layout of the rulebook should be decided by you and you can effortlessly use a word or doc file to create the same. The file can then include all the rules, illustrations, images, sample templates, and designs, among other things. The purpose of every game component or card should be noted down so that it is easy for the person reading to grasp the gameplay. You can mention credits for the board game i.e. the designing elements, content, ideation, testing, etc as well.
While designing the cards or any other printed components, it is necessary for the illustrator to give the required bleed on the edges. The bleed is the area that has to be cut off on the edges during the printing process. You must ensure you plan the design of the edges accordingly. For example: If you have a 70x70mm card, when you include the bleed on the edges, the card dimensions would be 75mm. Thus, there is enough bleed of 5mm to cut along the edge. It is important that a bleed is considered for every printed element in the design. This applies to the board, rule book, and box as well. If you reach out to your manufacturer, they will also have some standard templates for the components. While sharing your requirements with the illustrator, do mention the bleed dimensions according to the different components.
Most games now come with trays to store the game components inside the game box. It could be a cardboard tray or a customized plastic one, according to your preference. You can choose to not have one at all too. As the world is steadily moving towards the idea of sustainability and ecological awareness, many are opting for sustainable ways of creating their games, which helps reduce the burden on the environment. If your gaming components would visually look very pleasing with a cardboard or plastic tray, you should definitely go for it! Even having packages like small goodie bags or zip locks to store the tokens, tiles, or dice, is a very common and favorable way of assembling your components in the box.
Having one artist or more than one is totally your say, depending on your budget and the complexity that the game comes with. It would be nice to have a lead illustrator who can preside over the entire design process and make all the major decisions regarding the game design so that there is simply one channel of synched, two-way communication. The illustrator or artist who you choose to work with should have experience in the creation of board game so that he/she can give you the correct cost breakups and perfect estimate for the effort until production. You already have a list on you with everything you require for your board game design perspective. The rough estimate as well as a clearer idea for it all will be provided by the designer.
When you have successfully finalized your design elements, your designer or illustrator may start to work on the design process and put everything into action. You have made your decision on the font and colors on the printed components for eg: the cards. In case you are not happy with the design, it is wise to keep a maximum of two options for the same. Having too many options can complicate the situation and keep you puzzled. Even for the color palette, it is good to nail down what exactly you want after the first pitch and consult the illustrator for his/her inputs.
Decision-making is a very important virtue to imbibe during this phase, as you will need to make a lot of quick choices regarding the designs. When you have already noted down everything you want and you make your decisions in a snap, you save a lot more money, energy, and time that would’ve ended up getting wasted in just going back and forth with your illustrator. Starting the entire process all over again is a big NO unless you have a whole lot of funding and resources to help you re-work your designs. The main goal is for you to ultimately be happy and satisfied with your decisions and the final design of your board game as a whole. Once you’re done with the design phase, you can check another requirement off your list and move onto the bigger and more crucial segments of the board game publishing!
Stay tuned to our blogs to check out the next step on this rollercoaster on how to publish your own board game!