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Playing the Design Game Defining and processing tacit knowledge in a board game publishing company

Kartiina Heljakka

This article discusses how designers learn about the creation of board games by familiarizing themselves with tacit knowledge and company processes. To some extent board game design depends on general design methodology and knowledge. However, in order to be able to work in an international board game publishing house and to design board games (and thus facilitate play) for a multicultural audience, the designer has to know about preferences regarding materials, production processes, visualization and packaging. A board game is usually a product of teamwork where designers from different fields of expertise come together to solve design challenges having to do with both form and function. Since a board game sometimes is created from the idea to a ready made product all set for marketing inside a game publishing house, the designer also has to understand the different stages of the product development process. This study is conducted in the department of product development at a Scandinavian game publishing house with professional board game designers coming from different educational backgrounds. The designers are of different ages and in different stages of their careers. Traditional research methods such as qualitative thematic interviews are used to demonstrate how tacit knowledge is transferred by both management and fellow designers and how a designer becomes familiar with the company?s design philosophy. The findings are that expertise in game design involves mastering a multitask challenge which may best be learned through familiarizing oneself with both tacit knowledge learned in everyday work but also by analyzing feedback coming from different sources.


Game designer, board game, game publisher, tacit knowledge, design philosophy