Design

Meet the New Rummikub

by Yuval Saar | 15.02.16

shlomi_eiger_rum

Two and a half years ago, Shlomi Eiger conducted a research for Israeli toy company Kodkod. It was then that he realized that he wanted to take part in the design of the iconic game “Rummikub”. The game, which was developed by board game designer Ephraim Hertzano, hasn’t changed ever since it came into being in the 1940s.

Eiger took this favourite pastime and gave it a little twist: he added new joker tiles to the game, thus introducing new phases and situations that did not exist in the original. Among the new creations: a “Mirror Joker” that reverses the series, a “Double Joker” that functions as two numbers and a “Changing Color Joker”.

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36-year-old Eiger studied Industrial Design at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. After his studies he spent some time working for White Innovation, a company that provides technology-oriented research and development.  Shortly thereafter he took to the independent path and began looking into a field that had fascinated him as far back as his studies: toy and game design. He taught boardgame design for two years at an excellence program in southern Israel.

Much to Eiger’s content, Kodkod liked his innovative take on things and the bond was forged. The new design of Rummikub was launched officially at the end of January 2016 in the toy exhibition Spielwarenmesse that takes place at the Nuremberg International Toy Fair.

“The goal was to change the game’s character and pace, without tampering with the elements that everyone love,” he explains. “It was done very carefully and with a lot of sensitivity and respect for the original.”

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“When I first approached the design of the different elements, I was really in awe. Here I was, designing a new version of a traditional and iconic game. From the start, it was clear to me that I didn’t want to make a new and trendy version of the game, but rather to provide an alternative to the current design (that is a result of lots of versions that have changed over the decades).

The core of the work was the tile itself: the tiles were very similar in proportion. The former tiles were very distracting visually- there were logos on both sides, a little concave at the top of each one to mark the numbers and so on.

The new tile curves inwards and is very smooth. The number is bigger and at the center of the tile, and the logo only appears in the back. It also has a little trick that makes it easier to pile up the tiles. We changed the color palette to something a little reminiscent of CMYK and did typography work for the font with designer Sonja Olitsky. The former tile had a cream tint to it, a reference to the old, ivory-like tiles. The new tile is white.”

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What can you say about the end result? What was especially important for you to obtain?

“What you can see in the final product is my attempt to refine the game’s different elements and lend them some of their original character. It was also important for me to make sure that they would be up to date, that they would function and look modern. Lots of people remember the wooden boxes and the ivory-like tiles but the game has gone through so many changes since then. All these changes were made for technological and fashionable reasons, and the design has been overlooked.

“The game is all about typography, the main components are numbers and colors, and in the new design I really tried to respect that, in keeping with the times and modern manufacturing processes. The shape of the new tiles was a result of technological and ergonomic constraints (the tiles have to be light and easy to lift, we had to make sure that the print wouldn’t fade off over time, etc). These constraints limited us when it came to visibility and design. I tried to work around them and use them to actually create a better tile.

“It sounds a bit funny for me to talk so much about tiles- after all, it’s such a small and simple object. But the tile is the only interface in this game and it has multiple roles. Beyond the visual role it plays, it also serves as a physical and experiential interface. The game is really all about touching the tiles, piling them up, arranging them, dragging them across the table. These things have a dominant sound and texture. I have my own childhood memories of tiles from games like Dominoes; I can still recall how much the sound these tiles made was an instrumental part of my experience. In my design I really tried to strengthen these traits.”

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Ours is a digital age and as such, it offers a lot of replacements, diversions and temptations. Can you explain how Rummikub is still such a relevant and beloved game?

“I think that what makes this game so attractive is the balance between how easy it is to learn the rules and how complex it is to actually play. That enables a very large variety of people of all ages to take part in the fun. The game’s complexity ensures that it will never get boring or repetitive.”

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Translation from Hebrew by: Joy Bernard

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