What’s the secret to a successful LEGO Ideas submission?

LEGO Ideas. Thousands of submissions, just 39 success stories but four people have struck gold twice. How did they do it?

Back in 2008, the LEGO Group and a Japanese company called Cuusoo (from the Japanese word kuso, meaning daydream or fantasy) launched LEGO Cuusoo, which would later become LEGO Ideas. The idea was simple: LEGO fans had the opportunity to submit their designs and, if they could achieve support from 10,000 unique users of the website within two years, then the design would go forward for review by the LEGO Group. Successful submissions would become official LEGO sets with the designer receiving 1% of the royalties.

To date, nearly 40,000 projects have been submitted, but only 39 have reached production. With the odds of a successful project being about one in a thousand you wouldn’t expect lightning to strike twice, but four designers have achieved just that. So what does it take to get an Ideas set all the way to the shelf of a LEGO store?

It’s not just picking a good licence

A frequent criticism of Ideas is that successful designs are usually based on an existing IP, and there are very few that could be called original. Well the stats don’t back that up. Of the 39 sets that have made it to the shelves (we’re taking 21333 The Starry Night as our cutoff point), two could be described as being based on an existing LEGO theme, 18 are based on existing properties, such as TV shows, films, cartoons and so on, while 19 could legitimately be called original. 

21100 Shinkai 6500 Submarine Ideas

Some, like the set that started it all, 21100 Shinkai 6500 Submarine, or 21307 Caterham Seven 620R are based on real world objects, while others, such as 21327 Typewriter or 21313 Ship In A Bottle take their inspiration from more generic items.

Lots of pictures. And a video doesn’t hurt.

Four designers, Alatariel, AndrewClark2, BrentWaller and JKBrickworks have all had two designs go through to production, and looking at their submissions, it’s clear that while their text descriptions range from ‘just a few paragraphs’ to ‘overly verbose’, having plenty of pictures goes a long way, with each of their pages having lots of images to get voters excited.

Video is a very popular and effective tool, too, with six of the successful designs showing how the various features and functionality of their submissions work.  Only Alatariel, who created 21110 Research Institute and 21302 Big Bang Theory declined to break out the phone/video camera and make a film.

21110 1

Keep trying!

There’s a quote, which has a number of variations, and it’s oft attributed to Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States. Basically it runs: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” And the same can be said for LEGO Ideas. Alatariel has submitted five designs to Ideas, with four making it to review stage and two going into production. JKBrickworks has put seven ideas in, with five making it to review and two in production, with a third, Ski Chalet, being reviewed in the next round.

However, AndrewClark2 has that beat, with 14 projects, three of which made it to 10k and two – 21304 Doctor Who and 21316 The Flintstones – making it to the shelf. Undisputed king of Ideas though – at the moment – has to be BrentWaller. He too has come up with 14 creations, and no fewer than seven have made it to the review stage. He’s also on two production sets, having designed 21108 Ghostbusters Ecto-1 and 21328 Seinfeld.

LEGO Ideas 21328 Seinfeld featured 4

Get the word out!

Ultimately, to get to 10,000 votes, you need people to know about your project, and to that end, there’s no substitute for getting out and hustling on social media. Sometimes it just takes one retweet from the right person, or a celebrity to mention your idea, and it can really light a fire under a project. Fellow designer Glenbricker did some analysis after Alatariel’s Research Institute made it to review and it’s possible to see, after a year of slow progress, when the project really took off.

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