Co.Design

The World's Most Beautiful Scrabble Set

And a feast for typography nerds, too!

Eager to refresh one of America's most beloved board games — until this shameful moment in history, anyway — a BYU design student recently gave Scrabble the high-design treatment: He turned it into a typographic orgy.

A-1 Scrabble, a concept by Andrew Capener, who graduated from BYU last year, has pieces that eschew Scrabble's standard News Gothic-y look altogether in favor of a big medley of typefaces. So while you're spelling out "highjack" (28 points, FTW!), you can really nerd things up by relishing in the visual alchemy of a Helvetica 'C' alongside a Courier New "z" — all on a stately walnut board that comes in a beautifully minimal birch box. Or you can buy the game with a single typeface, then snap up extra pieces in different typefaces, through Scrabble's website, whenever you feel like something new. Capener tells us his motivation was simple: "I set out to... create a scrabble set that a designer would dream of."

Capener, who thought up the board game for a course on packaging design, says there's a business case to be made for A-1, too. Scrabble is the sort of board game you buy once in a lifetime, which is great for consumers — not so great for Scrabble's U.S. manufacturer, Hasbro. "Scrabble could be making a lot more money off of its players if there could be a way for them to constantly feel as if they need to update... [m]uch like Adobe does with their software," Capener says. So he got to thinking about typefaces. 'Since fonts are like fashion — they go in and out of [style] — I envisioned the Scrabble font sets as being affordably tempting, leaving type-loving Scrabbleoholics powerless,' he says. "This would provide Scrabble with a way to keep customers coming back to them, wanting to update their set."

Interesting case. We have to wonder, though, about the buying power of "type-loving Scrabbleoholics." That's an awfully small consumer group you're talking about. And if you really want to rake in the dough by marrying one geek love to another — which is ultimately what Capener is doing here — you'd have better luck marketing something like Scrabble, Dungeons and Dragons edition.

That said, we don't doubt that A-1, as a keepsake edition, could touch up the Scrabble brand. With its emphasis on typography and design, it's the kind of thing Hasbro could flog to high-end tastemakers like DWR and the MoMA Design Store and, in so doing, refresh its own image. Lord knows, after the Scrabulous snafu, it needs help.

[Images courtesy of Andrew Capener]

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4 Comments

  • Mani Press, Kalimpong, India

    With over 100 years of wordsmithy in one's family within a span of five generations, this set ought to become a common permanent juxtapositionable fixture in every household symbolizing the past, present and the future. Sky and the buying power though, will be the limit . . . what with cases after cases, as in lead-type cases of the letter-press era, that need to be had to satiate.

  • G Hayes

    As a designer of interior spaces I see this 'scrabble art' on permanent display in many living spaces - encouraging interaction from passersby. Walnut is the right choice of woods - native to Missouri - and the change in fonts is just a brilliant move.

  • Ken Rowland

    When I taught myself how to type, it was one finger at a time, from either hand, and each letter and its agate spacer most often slid down a sleeve from its hot lead lustre to a word uniquely formed, oft misspelled, agate space, um, aberrantly among the missing. I could really motor back in the day. Words are pretty serif-endipitously, or sans that little waggle...