Since its creation, a defining trait of LEGO has been ease of use. LEGO is something anyone can enjoy, whether they’re following the instructions or creating something totally new. In recent years, however, a range of more sophisticated sets have emerged. They use the same bricks and simple instructions, but they’re designed with the more experienced builder in mind.
Today these sets are often grouped under the Creator Expert umbrella, and are amongst the LEGO Group’s most beloved creations. Visit LEGO.com to see what Creator Expert has to offer at the moment, including old favourites, seasonal sets, and a few more eclectic entries.
LEGO Creator Expert history
Unlike most LEGO themes, Creator Expert is a bit fuzzy as a category. The branding first appeared on 2011’s 10220 Volkswagen T1 Camper Van, but there are several sets before it that we might – retroactively – class as Creator Expert.
LEGO Creator sets in this niche are best understood in terms of design philosophy rather than subject matter. Many feature high piece counts, sophisticated building techniques and close attention to detail.
The first set to hit these criteria is arguably 3450 Statue of Liberty. This large-scale model recreates the famous New York landmark, and boasts over 2,600 pieces. Similar models like 3723 LEGO Mini-Figure and 3724 LEGO Dragon would follow soon after, joined by large-scale aircraft like 3451 Sopwith Camel and 10024 Red Baron.
By 2006, these LEGO Creator sets started to become more minifigure-friendly. 10173 Holiday Train is an impressive Christmas build, featuring a number of passengers on a festive journey. 2008 was also an auspicious year; the modern LEGO brick turned 50 years old, with the LEGO Group releasing 10184 Town Plan to celebrate. A deliberate throwback to the company’s 1950s products, this would begin to establish larger-scale builds across the LEGO range.
It was around this time that the LEGO Group would introduce some of its more popular product types. 10182 Café Corner – the first modular building – launched in 2007, with 10187 Volkswagen Beetle launching a year later. Each of these would go on to inspire many more similar products in the years to come.
While LEGO is a toy first and foremost, LEGO Creator Expert sets would frequently produce both display pieces and more conventional playsets. 10189 Taj Mahal is one of the most beloved Creator Expert sets, and at the time of its release it boasted the highest piece count of any LEGO set. More large-scale landmarks from across the globe would follow, with the likes of Sydney, London and Rome all receiving tributes.
The 2020s have pushed the Creator Expert concept even further. 10280 Flower Bouquet was the first model in the Botanical Collection, which recreates various plants and flowers with LEGO pieces. 10276 Colosseum, meanwhile, boasted a then-record 9,036 pieces when it arrived in November 2020, beating the Taj Mahal by a considerable margin. However, 2021’s 10294 Titanic would soon steal that crown. Boasting 9,090 pieces and a length of over a metre, it’s taken Creator Expert to places early LEGO fans could only imagine.
Yet even as it redefined itself, the Creator Expert branding would fall by the wayside. It’s still used as a product category on the LEGO Group’s websites, but the Creator Expert name is absent from the sets themselves. In an effort to capture a broader adult market, the LEGO Group introduced new, sleek packaging for its larger sets that downplays the LEGO aspect.
Whatever we call them, Creator Expert sets have become cherished items for older fans. With bold new experiments in recent years, expect Creator Expert to keep exciting – and challenging – its audience going forward.
LEGO Creator Expert sets
The modular buildings debut at the start of each year, and connect together to form a single street. They bring a new sophistication to minifigure-scale buildings, with fully-enclosed structures and multiple floors to explore. While early models like 10182 Café Corner lack interior detail, this was swiftly remedied with later releases. Today’s modular buildings feature attention to detail both inside and out, with some offbeat uses for LEGO elements.
10255 Assembly Square shows modular buildings firing on all cylinders. Released to commemorate the subtheme’s 10th anniversary, the model features a larger footprint and references to all the modular buildings preceding it. It also uses many parts for unexpected purposes; roller doors become bakery windows, digger buckets turn into roofing, and Thor’s hammer is employed as masonry detail.
The modular buildings have proven so popular, sets from completely different themes are designed to connect with them. 80107 Spring Lantern Festival was released in 2021 as part of LEGO’s Seasonal theme, and connects perfectly to other modular buildings. 76178 Daily Bugle – released in the same year – offers similar functionality. While there are no physical connections to speak of, 75827 Firehouse Headquarters (released for the Ghostbusters range) offers similar pavement designs. As such, it’s a fitting companion to any modular collection.
The Winter Village line is another beloved annual release. Following in the footsteps of 10173 Holiday Train, these models offer a variety of festive scenes. 10199 Winter Village Toy Shop set the tone with cosy buildings, lush Christmas trees and plenty of brick-built toys to play with. Later models would introduce post offices, market stalls and even a visit to the North Pole, complete with Santa and his reindeer. 10293 Santa’s Visit may prove the pinnacle, however. For the first time, LEGO fans can actually send Santa down the chimney, where exclusive printed cookies await.
Although they don’t enjoy a specific announcement schedule, large-scale vehicles have been another fixture of the Creator Expert line. Since 2008 LEGO fans have been able to build a number of large-scale iconic cars, starting with 10187 Volkswagen Beetle. Later years would bring cars by Ferrari, Fiat and Porsche, each of which include features like engine details, opening doors and lovingly-recreated dashboards.
Creator Expert vehicles have dipped their toes into popular culture, too. 10258 London Bus is an icon of the UK capital with custom tyres, retro advertisements and (of course) chewing gum under the seat. 10262 James Bond Aston Martin DB5 brings some spycraft to the LEGO car with rotating number plates, a concealed radar scanner and even a working ejector seat.
Drawing inspiration from the oft-delayed Ghostbusters: Afterlife, 10274 Ghostbusters ECTO-1 builds the 1959 ambulance to a large scale for the first time. While it can’t actually catch ghosts, LEGO fans can enjoy working steering, an extendable gunner seat and even a deployable ghost trap.
Outside these categories, Creator Expert includes a number of one-off models. 10282 Adidas Originals Superstar is a brick-built recreation of the famous sneaker, albeit with real shoelaces to finish it off. 10277 Crocodile Locomotive brings an adult sensibility to the LEGO train; while it was sold as a display model, it can be easily motorised if you require.
10269 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, meanwhile, brings the first motorcycle to the Creator Expert line. Developed in partnership with the manufacturer, it includes moving pistons, handlebar steering and a stand for more elegant display. If your tastes run more sophisticated (or expensive) it’s likely Creator Expert will have something you’ll love.
LEGO Creator Expert minifigures
Minifigures are a crucial part of many Creator Expert sets, but rarely a selling point of the sets they appear in. That said, Creator Expert minifigures have gone in some interesting directions over the years.
In a break with their contemporaries, early minifigures in modular buildings all feature the classic, neutral smiley face. This was in-keeping with the broader design ethos of the buildings themselves, which draw from older architectural styles. 10232 Palace Cinema – for instance – takes inspiration from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which was constructed in 1926. Using older minifigure faces helps to preserve the old-world charm that the early modular buildings espouse.
Eventually, however, the modular buildings would break from this tradition. 10260 Downtown Diner – released in 2018 – ditches the generic faces for unique, more detailed versions. Although this was a little controversial at the time, it helped the diner to maintain the narrative thread these sets had been weaving. The building’s second-floor recording studio is used by a ’50s rock ’n’ roll singer, whose alternate singing expression is a better fit for the context.
While many Creator Expert sets tend to feature generic minifigures, exclusive ones do pop up for that added authenticity. 10263 Winter Village Fire Station features a trio of exclusive firefighters, with uniforms inspired by the early 20th century. 10278 Police Station – 2021’s modular building – offers police uniforms with a similarly retro flavour.
10273 Haunted House is packed with references to the ‘90s and early 2000s, making it a suitable choice for today’s adult collectors. It also reimagines the classic ghost characters with modern elements, and makes reference to Junkbot – the star of an ancient internet browser game. Other visitors feature elements from the Hidden Side theme – appropriate, given the ghostly nature of the sets in it. Even within the minifigures, Creator Expert manages to make some creative choices.
LEGO Creator Expert Colosseum
Completed in 80CE, the Ampitheatrium Flavium – known popularly as the Colosseum – is one of the most famous buildings from classical antiquity. It’s the largest ancient amphitheatre ever constructed; average audiences would include 65,000 people, who would watch gladiatorial shows and other events. Today it’s one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, with 7.6 million visitors in 2019.
Given the building’s history and popularity, a grand LEGO set was perhaps to be expected eventually. Ancient Rome had enjoyed relatively few appearances in LEGO form before it arrived; the closest we got was the Collectible Minifigures range, which featured five Roman-inspired figures from 2011 to 2017. Upon its release, no other set had included so many elements (though as we mentioned, the Titanic would pip it to the post a few months later).
Released in 2020, the finished model measures over 27cm high, 52cm wide and 59cm deep. Despite its relatively small size, reviews upon release praised the excellent details it exhibits. For instance, the finished model makes sure to differentiate columns on different levels with subtle variations. It also recaptures the damage to the Colosseum in its current state.
Even on a good day, though, LEGO is always an approximation of its source material. This has led to certain deviations from the real thing; the LEGO version has fewer arches, and an exaggerated height for display purposes. Even with those alterations, the Colosseum is broadly seen as a respectful tribute to its source material.
An RRP of £449.99 marks this as a set for adult fans, as does the new adult-friendly branding on the box. However, 6346105 Roman Chariot – released as a promotional item the same year – may have helped buyers stay young at heart.
LEGO Creator Expert Camp Nou
10284 Camp Nou – FC Barcelona recreates the Spanish football stadium with similar reverence to the Colosseum. The home stadium of FC Barcelona, it first opened in 1957 and can accommodate almost 100,000 football fans. It’s also the largest stadium in both Spain and Europe, hosting events for the Champions League, FIFA World Cup and Summer Olympics over the last few decades.
Released in 2021, Camp Nou follows 10272 Old Trafford – Manchester United, a 2020 release with similar source material. It measures 20cm high, 49cm wide and 46cm deep, and comes with the details we’ve come to expect. Football fans can keep an eye out for the players’ tunnel, VIP entrance and press section, as well as flags with Barcelona colours. To better appreciate its charms, the stadium can actually split into five sections, which may also aid storage or transportation.
Although the set lacks minifigures at this scale, the Barça Bus – used by Leo Messi and other first team players – can be seen on the outskirts. If you’re a LEGO fan with a love of football, Camp Nou may be just what you’ve been waiting for.
From Creator Expert to Icons
In 2022, the Creator Expert branding was finally abandoned altogether. It’s been replaced by LEGO Icons – a new branding that, presumably, conveys the unique traits of relevant sets more effectively. It’s fair to say that branding for this kind of LEGO set had become muddled (particularly as the LEGO Group increasingly courts older LEGO fans) so a fresh start might be just what these sets need.
While The LEGO Icons branding will soon appear across official LEGO websites, it won’t appear on physical packaging for a little while yet. Expect to see the first LEGO Icons boxes in the wild in 2023.