What started as a polite board game has evolved into an American favorite, recently gaining popularity on CD-ROM. Hasbro undertook a packaging refresh to reflect the brand’s evolving identity.

By Jennifer Acevedo

The story:Alfred Mosher Butts, a young out-of-work architect, invented SCRABBLE, “America’s Favorite Word Game”, in the midst of the Great Depression. He wanted to create a game that combined the vocabulary skills of crossword puzzles and anagrams, with the additional element of chance. So he studied the front page of The New York Times to calculate how often each of the 26 letters of the alphabet was used. He and his partner refined the rules and design of the game, and named it SCRABBLE. The name was trademarked in 1948 and eventually licensed for mass production.

Since then, more than 100 million sets have been sold worldwide, and the game is found in one of every three American homes, ranging from the Junior edition to a CD-ROM with many versions in between. Every year, the National SCRABBLE Association sanctions more than 180 tournaments and 200+ clubs in the U.S. and Canada.

The challenge:While the baby boom generation views Scrabble with the dignity and respect it has earned over the last 60 years, today’s generation of 28- to 39-year-old gamers wants something more. They look at Scrabble as a contest of minds, hearts, and the will to win.

The goal:Hasbro turned to Boston-based Phillips Design Group to refresh the graphic identity and create a new package that appealed to today’s SCRABBLE fanatics and casual game players alike.

The solution: Phillips latched onto a younger, hipper audience’s need for instant gratification by re-positioning SCRABBLE as a word game that delivers a steady stream of challenging turns and winning moments. With the tag line, “Every word’s a winner”, and colorful graphics, the new design clearly communicates the thrill of winning on every play.

The previous SCRABBLE box design was dominated by script typography and the color red, “which has become synonymous with the brand,” says Steve Phillips, president of Phillips Design Group, which retained the color with some modifications.

“While the color choice was strong, the presentation was a bit flat. We wanted to kick it up by modernizing the type face, and energizing the color palette, creating an explosion of hues that leap off the package,” explains Phillips. “It’s all about capturing the energy and experience of playing the game.”

The results: Since the redesigned package hit the shelves in earlier in 2008, Hasbro has seen a surge in SCRABBLE sales and a renewed interest in its online and event-related activities.

The author, Jennifer Acevedo, is the Editor-in-Chief of BRANDPACKAGING magazine. Contact her at acevedoj@bnpmedia.com.

Where to go for more information…

Brand identity and packaging design.
Phillips Design Group (617.423.7676, www.phillipsdesigngroup.com)