Case Study

The Mahjong Line

Product design and brand development for a modern Mahjong brand

We created lines of tiles in three distinct themes – Minimal, Botanical and Cheeky – and reimagined what the classic Mahjong sets of Crack, Bam, Dot, Flower, Wind, Dragon, Joker and Soap tiles could look like through different artistic styles, puns and plays-on-words.

Each line is released as a limited-edition offering in different colorways, accompanied by an official Field Guide that tells the story of each line, acts as a key for the tiles and provides some helpful hints for new players.

The artwork we designed was carved and hand-painted by traditional artisans in China.

The Mahjong Line

Not your mama’s Mahjong.

The Chinese game of Mahjong has enjoyed steady popularity since its introduction in the US in the early 20th century. A tabletop game played between four players, it gained a reputation for an older demographic – think grandmothers at the Bridge or Rummy table. However, in the last few years its popularity began skyrocketing among a younger, style-conscious set who enjoyed the game’s lively atmosphere, quirky customs and collectability.

Our client – a group of young women with an active Mahjong league – saw an opportunity: the traditional Mahjong tiles, similar to a deck of cards, are all variations on the same basic artwork. And while the classic designs are beautiful, they could not find any sets of tiles that reflected their own modern sense of style, or the fun, cheeky personality of their games. They partnered with us to redesign the face of the game with brand new artwork for one-of-a-kind sets of tiles.

When setting out to design new tiles from scratch, our primary challenge was to inject life into the designs of the tiles, while ensuring that the new artwork would still be legible to players used to the traditional tiles, and would not interfere with playability. That said, we took freedom in redesigning what a “Dragon” or “Flower” tile could look like – and used puns and plays-on-words to reimagine a “Crack,” “Bam” or “Soap.” Each line is threaded through with a theme – Botanical, Cheeky, Minimal – and is released as a limited-edition offering in different colorways.

Alongside the tile designs themselves, we branded The Mahjong Line with a chic, tongue-in-cheek personality inspired by the vibrant, modern aesthetic of the tiles.  The “winking gal” from one of our Jokers became the official brand mascot. Across their new website, accessories and collateral materials, punchy copy speaks directly to their target market: “This is not your mama’s Mahjong.”


Photography by Chris Plavidal.