Set Designers Q&A Part 1
Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 at 10:04pm by Jeremy, BZPower Reporter
Webmaster Kelly McKiernan (aka Binkmeister) sat down with several BIONICLE designers - past and present - and asked them probing questions submitted from BZPower members. (Kelly bribed them with lunch.) The following hour and a half was filled with laughter, introspection, more laughter, some unpublishable comments, and a lot of fun insights into Life With BIONICLE.
To make it easier to get through the questions, Kelly collated all the questions down to the essence, and grouped them into categories. The first category is About Being a Designer. Future categories include Sets, Process, Marketing, Story, and so on. Since the design team is always busy, we're spreading out the answering period. Besides, it's more fun this way.
JD: Jeffrey Alan Davies
EF: Esben FlÝe
MTJ: Michael T. Jeppesen
LT: Lars Thygesen
JV: Jes Vestergaard
CR: Christoph RŲttjer
CR2: Christoffer Raundahl
AS: Andre Sang-Tae Stenbryggen
KM: Kelly McKiernan
ABOUT BEING A DESIGNER
Question: How can I become a LEGO set designer? What degree or education do you need, and where would I need to live?
Question: Which set are you most proud of designing?
- CR: Get a design degree (helpful but not necessary)
- MTJ: Kill one of the existing designers to get his place. You have to be creative. You have to show your creativity.
- JV: I made furniture for kids. That was my entrance exam.
- LT: Iím a blacksmith originally, but I also have a design degree.
- CR2: Iím a baker. You need to keep your kind of like your childhood thinking, be curious, try to stay in that childhood mindset, and remember what it was fun to be a kid.
- MTJ: And be able to live off pocket money. :)
- JD: Industrial design and Canadian. Every good business should have at least one Canadian.
- CR: (You need to live in) boring Billund, Denmark.
- MTJ: Or within a couple of hundred kilometers of Billund.
- CR2: Within commute distance of Billund. If you have a helicopter, you could live far away. Of course you need supernatural powers, but we canít reveal them.
- MTJ: Designers are born, not made. The hard part is to leave it at work.
- CR2: Weíre not actually designers, but really toymakers. Itís not like fashion design, but creating toys.
- EF: Itís also about working closely together with a lot of people.
- JD: Having some sort of social skills is important.
- MTJ: Or antisocial.
- CR2: Some sort of skills.
- All: Laughs.
- KM: Make checks payable to Binkmeister. Then youíre in. (not really)
Question: Where do you get inspiration for the sets? Movies, video games, etc.?
- MTJ: Kardas dragon.
- LT: 8621. Actually, the Rahkshi. And Iím proud of Jeffrey and Esben Ė theyíre real BIONICLE characters.
- JD: Thatís (number is) probably something from DuploÖ
- EF: You can build us up from scratchÖ
- CR: Gresh.
- CR2: Tahu, Kopaka, and the Bohroks. And the ďchicksĒ (Bahrag)
- EF: Tuma
- JV: Strakk. (And the Duplo police boat)
- JD: I havenít created it yet.
Question: What do you love most about your job?
- JD: Childhood, for example, the trap in the KARZAHNI set was inspired by a giant crab sculpture in front of the Vancouver museum I remember from my many visits to the museum as a child.
- CR2: Brickmaster.
- All: Internet
- CR2: Movies, cartoon, all the weird designersÖ
- Cr: Nature
- EF: Discovery Channel
- LT: I had a dream the other nightÖ
- MTJ: Super Brugsen (local grocery store)
- JD: Second-hand shops
- CR2: Brainstorming together, putting weird things together, doing crazy stuff
- MTJ: When we did Mahri, we went for a scuba dive with sharks and eels and everything
- CR2 & LT: Las Vegas! (But what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas)
- JD: London, but we almost got blown up by terroristsÖ
- CR2: Science museums, art museums, etc.
- LT: Playing with the kids during tests with kids. Theyíre great inspiration.
Question: Do you ever design any sets that donít end up being released?
- CR2: The chain around my foot. (CRís been here for 10 looooong years). The community and the fun, and having a job thatís serious but not seriousÖ you have fun that you donít get in other companies
- MTJ: The job is different from beginning to end
- JD: Itís about taking a product from concept to stores
- CR2: Getting the recognition from kids when they play with the toys, seeing their reaction and joy
- MTJ: Making children happy
- JD: Reading BZP.
- LT: Free coffee.
- JD: Free fruit
- EF: Being around your colleagues, and the fun we all have.
- JV: Meeting the fans and seeing that they really love what we do. Thatís great.
- CR: Office fights (with dart guns)
- All: Itís fun to get to play with LEGO all day long, every day!
- LT: The days where I get to leave late in the evening and can get here early in the morning.
- CR: CAKE. (chorus of assents and cheers)
- CR2: Whatís not to like???
Question: How did you end up working at LEGO, and how long have you worked there?
- CR2: Yes. Thereís been a lot of stuff that will never be released.
- MTJ: We pick just the best, the crŤme de la crŤme
- JD: Yes.
- JV: Plenty of concepts, but not all are approved
- MTJ: Itís part of the way we work, the process of development. We have so many ideas they canít all be released.
- AS: Yeah, we did some designs but they were too "dark" and we re-did them to be more kid-friendly.
Question: Is it fun designing BIONICLE sets?
- CR2: I was headhunted because they didnít have enough cake in the company. They were looking for creative people. That was 12 years ago. We did a test for a month, building alone.
- LT: We built stuff at home and sent it in. Iíve been here 15 years.
- JD: Took a wrong turn Ö No, itís political exile. Iíve been here 6 years.
- MTJ: Been here for 12 yearsÖ
- LT: Just after the second world war!
- MTJ: I was abducted directly from school.
- EF: Iíve been here for a year and a half, but waiting to get in for 10!
- CR: Iíve been here for one year, Iím quite new. I just applied for a job.
- JV: Iíve been here 9 years, started in the Baby line which doesnít exist. Iíve been in BIONICLE about a year.
- AS: I was hired as a graphic designer to make decorations for minifigs and labels and stickers. I showed some of my sketch work and drawing skills. That got me an interview with System, 12 years ago.
Question: How does it make you feel to know that your designs are so beloved by kids around the world?
- All: Of course!
- (mystery voice): Controlled fun.
Question: How do focus groups affect your designs?
- JD: My head is so big it canít get through the door!
- CR2: You feel proud and good, because being a kid is the best time of your life
- EF: You feel like a kid again when you meet fans who are really into BIONICLE
- MTJ: I didnít know my designs would be loved by kids around the world. Makes me want to have a big picture of my face on the back of the box.
- JD: Makes me want to ask for more money.
- MTJ: Me too!
- CR2: If Michaelís face was on the back of the box, I wouldnít buy itÖ
- MTJ: Itís a post-purchase benefit!
- AS: It's awesome, of course. You get very proud when you see and hear people talking about what you worked on.
Question: Would you recommend your job to a BZP member or other fan?
- CR2: No kids were harmed in the making of this BIONICLE.
- CFR2: It has a big effect. We listen to what the consumer and kids say, and we\re very aware of what they think BIONICLE is, and how they want to play with it. If itís not working in the test, we scrap everything we have.
- (everyone): Nods.
- EF: Kids have always been involved in the process, for every model.
- JD: Thereís something we doÖ we gather so much experience from our focus groups and what they like, itís not jst one particular test, itís all the tests weíve had in the past.
- MTJ: Itís also about testing childrenís abilities to play with the sets
- CR2: Itís also refreshing our view of what kids are doing, since itís been a few years since weíve been kids. Itís good to see what kind of world theyíre in, to find their inner child.
- JD: Iím still looking for my inner adult.
- LT: Nods.
To Be Continued...
- LT: Yes, I would.
- MTJ: No, itís ours!
- CR: Only if you buy cake.
- CR2: We donít want competition!
- JD: My jobís not available currently.
- KM: Letís re-phrase. Would you recommend your COLLEAGUEíS job?
- (everyone) Nods.
- MTJ: I definitely would.
- KM: I would too.
- AS: Yes!
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