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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > May 2019 (#30) > The Hidden Designers

The Hidden Designers

Tabletop graphic designers don’t always get the credit they deserve. We talk to three masters of this underappreciated art to discover just how essential their work is to making board games shine

On the front of most game boxes these days you’ll see a credit for the designer. More often than not there will be a byline for the lead artist, too. But it’s very rare that a game’s graphic designer will receive credit anywhere other than in the rulebook. Graphic design is easily the most overlooked element of board game design. Yet it is crucially important.

“There are still some publishers who don’t understand the benefits of graphic design,” says Ian O’Toole, who regularly collaborates with Lisboa designer Vital Lacerda. “Because it’s hard to sell; it’s more something you get from the user experience.”

Good graphic design not only makes a tabletop game easier on the eyes. It also makes it easier on the brain, whether that involves making the rulebook accessible, the typography clear or the board itself simple to navigate. Often it’s all about balancing theme-based visual Thair with nittygritty functionality.

If you have gameplay elements that are fighting the playability of the game because of the graphic design, that’s a big issue,” says Matt Paquette, whose work includes Scorpius Freighter and Greedy Kingdoms. “I’d rather play a game that doesn’t look so awesome but works really well functionally, than vice versa.”

It can even make or break a game, commercially speaking. Bad graphic design, from the box inwards, can put off potential players by making games look too complex, too fiddly, too much effort to learn. Great graphic design, however, can make some titles punch above their weight in the battle for shelf space – both in shops and players’ homes. That’s certainly the case with Big Potato’s games, says the company’s art director Ben Drummond.

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About Tabletop Gaming

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