Case Study: "Rahala / Explorers" is a bilingual trivia board-game which offers an exciting travel journey through the history of Arabic Civilizations. The client approached Tarek Atrissi Design with a Game concept, and our involvement consisted of branding, visualizing, designing and producing the game. This case study showcases the design process from design concepts to final production, and the exciting research behind the design.
Research: After spending considerable time understanding the game basic concept and idea, the first research was focused on oriental games and unique board-games in the Arab Region. Most of the common board-games in Arabia are international and "imported" without any true local flavor. Rahala presented then a unique opportunity to bring a highly needed educational product to the Market, which needed the right design.
Design Explorations: The design process of a board-game includes all aspects of Design: Information design; packaging design; graphic design; 3D design; Visual Identity; Illustration and Usability design. The project start involved starting exploring design possibilities for several elements in different medium. One of which was the game configuration, which had to be designed to fit the game concept and maintain a logical game-flow.
Identity design: Designing the main look and feel of the visual identity & brand was a key element, yet turned out to be very difficult to clearly define at early stages. The graphics of the board-game and the visual elements had to be developed considerably, before the process of designing a logo for the game became possible. In the meantime, sketches and concepts were explored to set the basis for the creation of the bilingual brand.
Visual Material: Rahala board-game is a game of travel through six eras in the Arab civilizations. Considerable research had to be done to collect visual material from the Artistic, Cultural, Social, political and Visual sector or every era. The material was used as inspiration for design elements and for defining the visuals and graphics representing each era.
Eras Mood-boards: Defining the look and feel of every Historical Era present in the board-game was a critical part, and several design possibilities were explored based on the visual historical material collected in the research. Shown above are some of the early proposals of mood-boards for the "Age of discoveries" and "Rise of Islam" eras.
Color coding: Another important visual element in the design of the game was the color coding and the selection of the color palette. Every era was labeled by one color; strong but not vibrant to complement the other eras colors. A palette of colors derived from every main color- to give more color possibilities for usage within every era applications.
Bilingual information design
Bilingual information design: The layout of the question cards defined the main bilingual typography and information design of all text matters in the game- particularly in cards, rules and regulations, etc. The challenge was to fit much info in relatively small spaces, s well as maintaining the legibility and balance of both scripts. Shown above are the layout principles of the question cards design.
Packaging design: With all graphic elements starting to develop visually and become more refined, a main focus became the overall package of the game, starting with the format of the package. The traditional rectangular and rather large packaging option was disregarded, and the selected format was the squarish format, which is more modern and more commonly used nowadays- and which is more competitive and practical on the shelfs. In this format, the actual board will be folded twice, as shown in the early mock ups above.
3D Design: Early brainstorming and design explorations included working on some of the 3D items of the games, such as the tokens and the time devices. Keys were initially considered for tokens, since they were interesting in shapes and concepts, and custom made shapes for both these and for sand watches were designed and rendered in 3D to give an indication of their look and feel. Initially these were to develop into different directions with the development of the game and with researching production possibilities.
Pathway design: Part of the board configuration design included the design process of the pathway design, which involved working on the illustration and designs of every step within the board. Choices of the elements were based on the initial concept of the game, and the challenge was to keep the designed toned down as much as possible to avoid an overall crowded look of the final board design. Shown above are sketches from that process, which were developed further in illustration and design as the work kept developing.
Configuration design: One of the most challenging part of the design was the design of the configuration of the game: It had to fit a geometric grid, give justice to the game flow and adapt to the rules and regulation of the game-play. Most important, within this complexity, it had to retain an appealing overall design, and allow space for inserting each era's mood-boards. Shown above are selected sketches from this long configuration design process.
Eras Mood-boards development
Eras Mood-boards development: After several design rounds, the style of the mood-boards defining visually every era were defined further into the above suggested graphic style. A colorful approach, not focusing only on the color of each era but rather on the different shades of that color, melting with the image material related to each era. The overall style defines was playful and fitting more a "gaming" mood, and could appeal to a wide range of ages. Shown above the semi finalized "age of discoveries" and "rise of islam" eras, and their suggested graphic styles.
Packaging design development
Packaging design development: Knowing more the components of the game and the specific needs of the packaging, as well as the format, the packaging design was being more defined in shape and material. A wooden package was considered, to match with the concept of the game, yet commercial and production limitations lead to disregarding this material, and to stick to the traditional carton based packaging. Shown above renderings from the development of the package.
3D Design development
3D Design development: More work was done to define the final 3D playing pieces, exploring the possibilities of using simple shaped Arabic related transportation elements, such as the horse and the camel shown in renderings above. The specific dices for the game were custom made, and more simplified design for the Sand Watches.
Pathway design development
Pathway design development: More work was done on the board illustrations, with a focus on sketching different possibilities of the Pegasus, ranging from realistic and detailed to flat and abstract. Shown above are samples from the sketches and a suggested strip from the pathway design, which was developed further at a later stage.
Visual Material further research
Visual Material further research: During the entire game design process, continuous research was aiming at finding appropriate visual material that defines every era. Shown above are collected imagery for the "Modern Tiimes" era.
Eras Mood-boards: With the style of the Eras mood-board defined, every mood-board for every era was being developed and finalized. Shown above is the final mood-board for the Hellenism & Byzantine Era. The main theme of this era is the hegemony of Hellenistic and Christian empires over the East.; the rule of the Ptolemy’s in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria and followed by the rule of the Romans to each of these regions; as well as the rise and spread of Christianity through the Byzantine Empire.
Final Eras Mood-boards
Final Eras Mood-boards: All graphics and mood-boards defining the style of every era where finalized; shown above are all 6 eras: Age of Discoveries, Ottomans and Mamluks, Rise of Islam, Ancient Civilizations, Hellenism & Byzantine, and Modern times. the six eras cover the time period of the 20th Century B.C. until the end of the 20th Century A.D.
Finalized Cards Design
Finalized Cards Design: Finalizing the graphics representing every Era allowed finishing the design of all related elements. The question card of every era was finalized, and shown above are the front part of all 6 set of question cards.
Eras Graphics applied on board
Eras Graphics applied on board: Incorporating the defined visual style of every era on the actual board was as well one of the most challenging tasks. The Graphics had to fit in in a way that does not interfere with the overall look of the board or the main game pathway; yet still be "present" and indicate where each Era base is. Shown above is the final solution for the positioning of the graphics on the board.
Final Pathway design
Final Pathway design: With the design elements of the board itself being finalized, the actual design of the pathway and every step in the game came to a final shape, defining hence the design for the Black hole, the open question step, the Pegasus, the Astrolabe step, and the scout step. Both the Pegasus and the Scout were illustrated in large formats and reduced eventually to fit the board design.
Final Board Design
Final Board Design: The overall look and design of the board was finalized with all elements coming together, as shown in the detail from the final board above. The background of the board was printed in a silver metallic pantone color; blending nicely with the vibrant colors of the graphics of eras and pathway.
Identity Design: The work on the actual identity of the game became much easier at the last stages of the design, since it is always easier to design a logo and an identity system for a product that you can actually see. With the game shaping up in graphics and look and feel, developing its identity was a more straight forward task. Shown above are advanced sketches from the logo design process and the calligraphic renderings of its Arabic signature.
Final Logo Design
Final Logo Design: The final logo for Rahala (Arabic word for "Explorers") was simple and subtle, taking into consideration that it had to work as well as a title of the package while still recognized as a logo in itself. The idea was simple: to illustrate through abstract shapes the idea of virtual travel, implying in its shape a reference to a sail.
Visual Language: The logo reflected the game and spoke the same visual language of all other elements. This gave the overall identity a strong unified visual language, that worked all the way from the logo to the most detailed element in the game.
Package Design graphics
Package Design graphics: With the identity developed, and the game components designed, the work on the design of the package came as a next step. Several explorations were made (sketches above) all within one conceptual approach: Using the silver background color, the logo, and a 3D dynamic strip of the game graphics, consisting of a collage all main graphical elements in Rahala. The package had to be simple, modern, easily recognizable and truly representing the game it contains.
Game impressions: With most of the design completed, renderings and impressions of the game were created to get a real experience of the visual design of the game, and helped in making final needed design adjustments. It gave a realistic opportunity to view the game in a real context.
Final game design
Final game design: The actual final game, in its packaging and internal components was then completed and defined, and the production phase was the delicate following step which successfully made the end product exactly like the initial design and mock ups, with high quality both in Print, 3D, and other material and mediums used in production. The next phases of the project included designing all promotional, marketing and supportive material for the launch and advertising of the game.
Posters Design: A series of six posters, each relating in colors and graphics to each era's graphical representation, were designed in a vertical format, and often used in toy fairs and in promotional events for Rahala.
: The identity of the game had to be used as well on traditional printed material, such as the corporate stationary (business card shown above), as well as promotional brochures and direct mail material. A website was developed as well for the game (www.rahala.net
) which was simple, bilingual and informative about the game idea, concept, rules and regulations and sales & corporate info.
Retail Design: The game's success as a original concept in the Middle East market and its continuous presence in Toy and product fairs in the region necessitated the design of guidelines for stands and 3D retail points for Rahala. Shown above are impressions for the stand of Rahala at the Dubai Toy fair in 2006.
Rahal Board Game
Rahala board-game was an exceptional concept & a visionary product, which couldn't succeed without a very accurate visual representation and a design that solved properly and creatively all its challenges. A design process that heavily depended on an extensive historical research, & on understanding the visual culture of the Middle East & being able to represent it and communicate it to a varied target group. Rahala is a cultural project which is both a representation of our approach to design at Tarek Atrissi Design, & an example of the type of project we are passionate about working on.