Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Does everything need to be redesigned?

I bought the game Sorry! for Anna for Christmas. It was a game I figured we could both enjoy, and so far my instinct proved right. One thing bothers me about the game, though: the redesign.

This was the game I remember growing up:

And this is the game as it is currently designed:

The older version certainly needed a little updating. The design showed it's age, but what Milton Bradley did was unconscionable. Whoever designed it threw every trick in the book at it.

Grunge design has been all the rage the past few years, and the trademark splatters are here. Big cartoonish design has made a comeback too; the big outlines and super-splashy "Bam," "Pow" stars speak to that. And don't forget about half-toning; some of that's thrown in for good measure. Then there's the odd turn to a retro, space-age feel with the circles and gradients and bubble effects with circle outlines thrown on top of them. The cherry on top of that particular sundae are all the extra arrows and line elements that come from the little techie elements that felt fresh ten years ago. And don't forget about the updated cool-retro typeface—the name of which escapes me now—on the cover, the requisite handwriting font to give it the fun marketing splash of a printed Post-It, and the crazy-cool type treatments on the game board. To top it all off, there are transparencies everywhere. After all, where would we be without transparencies in contemporary graphic design, right?


It all adds up to a redesign that feels like every design cliché of the past five years puked all over the package. In the end, it went from dated-but-readable to so-busy-that-you-have-to-concentrate-just-to-figure-out-what-you're-looking-for. I'm tempted to blame design-by-committee, but in the end it feels more like design driven by marketing. I can almost see the brand and sales managers agreeing that it looks new, fresh, awesome while a designer sits in the studio counting all the layers in his Illustrator files.