Uniform, an independent creative agency based in Liverpool and London, has designed a series of board games to help students solve urban planning problems. A project brought to the agency by the mathematics department of University College London (UCL), Uniform has combined intelligent design and practical materials to create Plexopolis.
“The challenge, with a low budget, was to create a way that we could send out a suite of eight trial games for students to test and give feedback on, which in turn would help UCL to develop these ideas into actual games”, Uniform explains; “the limitations of what we couldn’t do, opened up the opportunity for what we could; and from there the solution seemed simple”. The final product is a stylish, minimalistic flatpack that includes eight slices of thin, lightweight Bible paper, which can then be folded out into single game-boards. Between the folds, each slip of paper contains cardboard counterparts that students can cut up to “build the tools that they would need for each game”, such as a 2D dice that can be crafted into 3D. Each game addresses a different urban problem; for example, Blackout, a game where you work out what items you might need to survive a power cut. These objects are printed onto card in elegant but austere symbols, which are then swapped between players in a game of cooperation. The one “who has the most items that can be used together in a blackout” wins, e.g. lighter and candles.
By taking its restrictions and making them into something useful, Uniform has used graphic design to effectively problem solve. Influenced by “utilitarian” ideals, the agency only printed in two colours, so as to keep the production costs down. However, this decision elevated, rather than compromised, the design. By using “neon as a modern twist”, the colour appeals to students and makes the “packs pop”, Uniform explains. As UCL’s goal was to gain feedback from the games so that they can progress and improve, the object has been created so it can be “put in the post”.
“Allowing students to problem solve and critically think outside of the traditional textbook through group-problem solving and gameplay feels as important as it is opportune”, Uniform explains. “Using games as tools to teach is an exciting and necessary opportunity for education,” it continues. With the packs being low cost, easy to transport and simple to use, Plexopolis presents an exciting opportunity for universities, to inspire as well as inform on great design.
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