In 2013 I worked with a small London-based games company, Go For It Games, on the packaging design for their Games With Names card game. The job went well, and subsequently led to us working together on a significantly more ambitious project in 2015, re-imagining and combining the classic card games Happy Families and its US equivalent Go Fish, for surname-specific target audiences. This was to involve not only the pack design (and multiple variations thereof), but also 52 individual card designs. As I say, significantly more ambitious!
We started with the box design. This essentially needed to be double-fronted – appearing as Happy Families when viewed from one side, Go Fish when seen from the other. I started by producing a basic template that would comfortably accommodate the longest and shortest of the names on the initial 30-surname list (so anything from Robinson or Williams, down to Lee or Hall), and also lend itself to six distinct colour combinations. The sheer number of variable elements that needed to be taken into consideration made this an interesting challenge, to say the least. Here is the final design we arrived at, showing one example of each of the six colourways, and a couple of shots of the printed product, seen from both sides. I’d like to think that the sometimes agonising process of spatial organisation that was involved in arriving at this point is entirely invisible in the final design!
Onto the cards…
As the games were being designed around a particular family name, the old familiar Happy Families convention (Mr Bunn the Baker, Mr Chip the Carpenter, etc) had to be abandoned, and replaced with groups themed around common family events. More of these later.
Firstly, as with the pack design, we needed a master template, to which we could then add specific text and colour to create the 52 individual cards (13 themed groups of 4). This needed to be simple and clear in the interests of gameplay and so as not to unduly detract from the central illustrated images. Here are a few examples of the card layout; the blank coloured area at the bottom was eventually filled with factoids and trivia relating to the surname in question.
As a mainstream game intended for the whole family, the level of humour (not to mention the traditional hetero family dynamic) had to be pitched accordingly. Nothing too racy (curb your natural tendencies, Geo!) and nothing that couldn’t readily be enjoyed by the youngest players. It was a fun challenge coming up with a set of images that would appeal across the generations without becoming too anodyne or twee. In the end, I think we just about did it!
Here’s the ‘Gross cousin’ family (noticeably less corpulent than my original character sketches, which we toned down so as not to give offence to the, er, larger members of the target demographic):
The ‘Halloween’ family. All set for some serious trick-or-treating:
‘At the Barbecue’. All essentially revolving around the idea of ‘Incompetent Dad’:
There were several others besides but the above selection gives you the idea. A full list of the names currently available can be found on the Go For It Games website, where the games can also be purchased.