This is part one of a 3 part series on Information design in board games. Part two is Shape, and part three is Layout.
Information design is the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters an efficient and effective understanding of the information. The term has come to be used for a specific area of graphic design related to displaying information effectively, rather than just attractively or for artistic expression.
The size of something tells us things about it, whether we have designed that or not. The larger it is, the more important and/or powerful it is. The smaller it is, the less important and/or powerful it is. So you can have size hierarchies in a game that tell which things to focus on, be afraid of, etc. Size can be overall size, vertical or horizontal size. Ie, something can be wider or slimmer, taller or shorter, more or less massive.
Good Examples of size hierarchies:
|Star Wars Rebellion. Those death stars loom over everything!|
Star Wars Rebellion - the death star and big battleships are much larger, and it lets you feel and know they are more powerful. Also, the standees with the heroes in them are very large, which lets you know they are an important focus of the game. The standees are cardboard, so they are not in the exact same hierarchy as all the plastic pieces. Also the death star and star destroyers are on pedestals, putting them literally above every other piece. Really great usage of size hierarchy.
Scythe: your main mini is larger. The mechs are larger than the workers. These size differences let you know the focus of the game and story.
|Blood Rage Minis. Those monsters are huge!|
Rising sun/Blood Rage: The monsters are bigger, meaning they are more powerful, more fun, more cool. You feel that when you get a larger monster on your team. That is part of the imaginative immersion of those games.
Examples of missed opportunities to use size hierarchies:
|Xia minis. Some of these are NPCs, but you can't tell from the height.|
Xia: The PC and NPC ships (and comets), all are meant to go on clear stands. If you do that, it is harder to differentiate between the PCs and NPCs, especially since the models are not very iconic, being more realistic. An easy fix is to not use the stands for NPCs and put them directly on the board. It creates a size hierarchy among the pieces, helping you focus on the PCS as well as differentiate them from the NPCs. Another thing that could be done is have the NPCs on half-height stands.
|Runebound Second edition. A PC on the left, and an ally on the right. No way to tell them apart from size.|
Runebound Second Edition: The character cards are the same size (bridge sized) as the items, allies and monsters. If they made the characters twice as large, it would have helped differentiate them when in your play area, find them amongst the clutter easier, let you put more counters on them, as well as help highlight the importance/focus of them in the story. I think in Descent and Runebound Third edition, they did this.