Thursday, June 12, 2008

Monopoly 70th anniversary edition

In 2003 I was approached by one of the lead designers at Hasbro, asking me if I'd be available to work on pieces for an upcoming 70th anniversary edition of Monopoly.

"Of course I'm available!"

The more details they gave me, the more excited I became. Aside from fact that it was a nice high-end item, the 70th anniversary edition would have a decidedly Art Deco look, very reminiscent of the late 20s - early 1930s. Influences of Van Alen's Chrysler building, or Sullivan's work here in Chicago.

.. did I mention that it was the Monopoly?
How did this fall into my hands?

I was more excited than daunted. I wasn't going to be designing the entire game, only the tokens, but I was still grateful. How many generations grew up with those little guys, fighting over who got to be the "scotty" or the "racecar", or the "boot".

The classic tokens were, of course;
the boat, the boot, the iron, the thimble, the horse, the scotty dog, the wheelbarrow, the cannon, the race car, and the top hat. Also a more recently added piece; the money bag.

This is what they look like in the classic version;

I was asked to redesign them to suit the aesthetic direction of the new version.
Well, I had already been a student and appreciator of Art Nouveau, Deco, and Bauhaus since college.
I started by looking through my own reference books for feel, then searched online keywording specific objects and dates. That helped with things like trains, cars, and footwear. Items like the thimble, the top hat, the iron, ..these things were always pretty simple and nondescript. I had to re-design them to look authentically Art Deco. As a consequence, influences of Joseff Hoffmann, Le Corbusier, Erte, Van Alen, and even old Busby Berkeley movies would find their way into this project.

I initially submitted 2 designs for each token;

Of course I loved working on the Scotty. I liked the fez.


The horse couldn't have a cowboy. Too unrefined. I went equestrian with the first.
The 2nd design was meant to be more sculptural and stylized, like an Erte.


The vehicles were fun to work on.
The directors at Hasbro encouraged a departure from the classic 'midget racer' favoring something more urban and elegant. With few exceptions, cars in the early 30s were still pretty boxy looking. Art Deco styling wasn't really integrated into auto design until the '36 Cord. The classic Mercedes Benz limo was the 'historically accurate' pass. The stylized '36 Cord was the one they chose.


The 'choo-choo train' had to go. It was too Civil War era. I knew where to go right away. To the gleaming stainless steel bullet trains.


The boot would be changing to an evening wear shoe. One version would be bent up, as if in mid-step.


Hand irons were still pretty primitive in 1930. Most of them were still literally blocks of iron with handles stuck on. You would heat them up on the stove top. They looked really clunky and utilitarian until the 1940s. I had to imagine what an old Art Deco iron might look like.

Decorative thimbles were almost always Victorian. Filigree and flowers.
These deco designs offered both bold and simple options.


Anything can have style, given a little imagination. These are variations on the kind of garden wheelbarrow most people owned back then.


The best approach for the cannon was to go for something decorative looking, like a ceremonial cannon, ..or, in this case, a circus cannon. How perfect.

The boat was tricky. It couldn't be decided if it would be best to go with an old ocean liner, or a classic yacht. I did a couple of ocean liners, which served okay, but I found some photos of some old wooden cigarette racing boats that were stunning. They liked them much better.

..Anyway, designs for the money bag and top hat followed accordingly, and everything went over so well they then asked me if I was interested in designing the
Houses and Hotels.

"Of course I'm interested!"


Dennis Frymire said...

From a man who's wearing Monopoloy boxers today (no joke), this is will be on Christmas wish list.

Kyle Bice said...

Excellent designs.