The LEGO Ideas team has unveiled four new sets from the fan-driven theme; insects, the Orient Express, Tales of the Space Age and the Polaroid OneStep SX-70 camera.
LEGO Ideas is the theme that allows fans to submit their builds to an online platform, with those that reach 10,000 votes getting turned into an official product like 21336 The Office and 21335 Motorized Lighthouse.
Another four sets have been announced today, which is the most that have ever been selected from a single review. The builds announced all reached 10,000 votes between January and May 2022. Now, the fan models will be developed into official products ready for release.
José María is the fan designer behind a collection of insects. ‘The hardest part was deciding which insects I was going to include in the project because I didn’t want to include too many insects,’ he told the Ideas community team.
Then Thomas Lajon’s Orient Express model was selected, which will mark the first LEGO train for the Ideas theme. The wheels were a particular challenge for Thomas: ‘The main problem I had was with the wheels. There are no LEGO parts with the size of track wheels I wanted. I had to do some fiddling which, at this level, makes the project unfinished. But I have no doubt that if the LEGO designers get hold of the project, they will find the right solution.’
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Blocks magazine readers will recognise Jan Woźnica’s style. His Tales of the Space Age series is much smaller than many recent Ideas sets. ‘I quickly realised that a two studs deep “canvas” would work best, but I’d also need a Technic frame inside to make the pictures durable,’ he told the Ideas team. ‘At the same time, a lot of features (like the 8×8 grey dish in the second picture) needed attachment points deep inside the frame. It was challenging to fit it all inside, but I’m very happy with the result.’
Then the fourth (!) set announced is Marc’s the Polaroid OneStep SX-70 camera. He was inspired by the people around him: ‘My friends and family played a big role in inspiring this model. My younger sister is a big fan of instant photography and her room’s walls are full of Polaroid pictures. Similarly, lots of my friends also love taking instant pictures and decorating their rooms with them.’
Interview with the LEGO Ideas team
It’s very unusual four builds to be chosen from a single LEGO Ideas review, so Blocks magazine asks LEGO Ideas Senior Marketing Manager Monica Pedersen how it was possible for this many to be selected.
Monica: I don’t think we wanted to pick out four. We know roughly how many products we need to launch a year, but we don’t go about starting a review thinking ‘okay, this time we’ll pick four.’ It needs to be the right products. Sometimes we are ahead in having identified products to launch, then sometimes our product manager will be asking ‘when are you going to decide?’ because we are totally behind schedule.
All submissions are high quality, otherwise, they would never hit 10,000 votes, but it’s just what fits into what we need to pick at what point and what’s the strategy being put out from leadership. Maybe we want to focus on the AFOLs in one launch and another time we want to recruit a lot of new consumers, then it’s different products you need to pick. Also we hear a lot of talk about price, how LEGO Ideas products have grown in size and price, because that’s the direction and the organic movement of the platform and submissions. We did see things that were very attractive and could be commercially good products to launch that were smaller, so that was great.
Design Manager Jordan Scott: It just so happened we had a lot of those types of products in that one particular review. So we were like, ‘are we really doing four?’
Monica: But that doesn’t mean that we won’t be picking just one next time. We don’t know.
Blocks: More LEGO builds are making it to 10,000 votes than they used to, so there are more successful product ideas for the LEGO Group to select from. What challenges does that pose for your team?
It takes more time. If you want to do a proper thorough review, you need to look at each and every submission. When I started in LEGO Ideas, we had eight per review, three times a year. And now we have 50 product ideas, three times a year. We had 124 last year.
It does require more effort from the people who have to sit and evaluate. We tried to help them out. Whereas before we would just send it all through, now we have to do some pre-screening before we send it out. We help them out by really looking at if there’s anything that we know is a portfolio conflict because some other team is bringing it out, anything we know that could be a licensing conflict, is it called something ‘medieval’? We might just screen that out because it’s not new news, right. We can help by pre-screening. That means a little bit more work for us, but then it helps the other people in the process.
Community Manager Hasan Jensen: Obviously, it gives the team so much more variety to select from compared to in the past, where we had seven to twelve submissions in each review, which made it challenging and where we ended up twice in our history, selecting nothing. On the one hand you disappoint literally everybody in a review. On the flip side, when we have a lot of submissions in review, then at least we can approve some and make some happy, versus just disappointing the whole community.
Blocks: What advice do you have for LEGO fans thinking of submitting a build to LEGO Ideas?
Monica: Sometimes it’s a question of when things are submitted. We see this influx of pirate things when we launched 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay. We launched 21325 Medieval Blacksmith, there was lots of medieval things coming. They might be approved, for instance, a couple of years down the line. But right now we’re fine with what we have already. We’re looking for ‘new news’. What’s new, to LEGO Ideas, but also to the LEGO Group.
Jordan: Just show us something completely brand new, we wouldn’t ever expect.
Monica: That doesn’t mean that something that has been submitted before and made it to 10,000 votes isn’t something that we could consider. But please wait, a couple of reviews before resubmitting again. Because if things have been declined, it could be because of a conflict with an IP partner that has a competitor in play. It could be because there is something else happening in another part of the organisation. It’s not going to change if you resubmit the day after you got rejected. Because if you want to wait you need to wait about a year and a half or something before it really makes a difference.
Hasan: That’s where the ones that actually have made it through there has been like a little bit more distance between it, The Office is a great example. The first submission was back in 2014 or 2015. It was slightly extended intervals when Jaijai l resubmitted it and at the same time he was also iterating on his design to like make it more appealing in the review process.