Design Manager provides insight into LEGO Ideas set selection

LEGO Ideas Design Manager Sam Johnson reveals some of the thinking that goes into selecting which product ideas become official LEGO products.

In a wide ranging interview as part of the Virtual Play Creators Conference 2020, LEGO Ideas Design Manager Sam Johnson provides insight into getting a job at the LEGO Group, how the Ideas process works and what’s important about being a toy designer. Most notably for AFOLs though, he gave a few tips about getting those Ideas projects to become a reality.

“Obviously we get a huge blend of different IPs come into LEGO Ideas, because LEGO the big machine can only cover so many at one time,” Same explains. “This is the one place where people can come and say I’d really love to have, say Winnie the Pooh as a LEGO set for myself rather than being for preschool, or I’d really like a set of Friends, because it’s been a TV show for 25 years now.”

Despite properties like Friends, Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory being for an adult audience, fans can get them through the process if they identify the playfulness and show their passion, he explains: “Friends deals with a lot of adult themes – friends, jobs, housing, all this kind of thing – but the thing that goes along the way is it’s really playful. You can laugh at the characters and the funny things that happen. Same with Seinfeld … it’s a playful world. If you see your favourite IP that LEGO has never done …  just trying to bring to life what you get from it personally can be really strong.”

That’s true of designs that are not based on television shows or video games too. “We just approved a typewriter on LEGO ideas, which is not based on any kind of brand or IP or anything, but the fan who designed it found an original photograph of Ole Kirk Christiansen, the founder of LEGO, in his office with a typewriter that looked exactly like his LEGO model. For us that’s a really cool story, an emotional connection, so we really wanted to play on that theme going forward into the design, wouldn’t it be cool to show it as a true LEGO item that the founder could have used.”

For those who are interested in a design career or working at the LEGO Group, the whole interview is well worth a watch.

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Graham was the Editor up until November 2020. He has plenty of experience working on LEGO related projects. He has contributed to various websites and publications on topics including niche hobbies, the toy industry and education. Follw Graham on Twitter @grahamh100.

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