How A LEGO Set Is Born

A hand holds a LEGO replica of a Polaroid camera. The back of the "camera" has been removed to show the sereies of Technic pieces inside that allow the camera shutter to work.

LEGOs are the first window into making something in your head become real for many makers. The Verge dug into how a LEGO set itself goes from idea to the shelves.

While most sets come from the minds of LEGO designers, since 2008, fans can submit their own sets to LEGO Ideas for the chance to become a real product. In this case, we follow the journey of [Marc Corfmat]’s Polaroid OneStep Camera from his initial attempts at LEGO stardom with his brother [Nick] to the current set that took off.

While the initial idea and build are the seed for a new set, once the project is in the hands of LEGO, designers meticulously make revision after revision to ensure the set is enjoyable to build and any moving parts continue to function for thousands of cycles. This is all weighed against the total cost of the BOM as well as any licensing required for intellectual property. One particularly interesting part of the article is how designers at LEGO are afforded a certain number of “frames” for custom bricks which leads to some interesting hacks and collaboration as all good constraints do.

For more LEGO hacks, checkout LEGO’s long lost cousin, testing LEGO-compatible axle materials, or these giant LEGO-like pieces.

11 thoughts on “How A LEGO Set Is Born

        1. They have a guide for how they want words to be used. Contracts may work that way, but most people are not under any obligation to follow LEGO’s ideas for what to call things. We The People have apparently decided that’s not how we language. In the same vein, Elon would probably like us to stop calling Twitter by its old name, but no-one I know ever does that.

          If you want more examples of how language cannot be pinned down, look up the original meanings of nice, clue, flux, buxom, prestigious, and pretty.

          1. Lego builders follow the instructions. That’s lesson number 1 of building LEGO.

            Philosophical takes on a ‘what is language’ aren’t going to fly with this crowd.

  1. LEGO designers also have to work with obsolete part used in original idea. Example: Saturn rocket originally had a white 2x2x5 lattice support part number 2580c01 on top. That part hadn’t been produced since 1999 and it’s likely the original mold has been destroyed so when they were looking at the model, they replaced the top piece with a total of 12 white tap pieces. The Exo Suit with the 2 classic style green space men also had to go through numerous revision as the original one used extinct parts and some illegal build.

    Illegal build won’t get you in jail but LEGO has rule for how certain parts can go together and there are some that seems to fit but is not approved as it may cause damage to the part such as putting a plate edgeway between studs or using a technic pin to join 2 parts without it going click. Example is the 2002 promo set Audi TT Roadster, the 2 chromed pieces were connected with a pin but the pin doesn’t go click and when left in position for a long time, the pin permanently deforms and no longer offers friction. Check Google for a common illegal builds, there’s an excellent guide that explains why those are illegal. Abusing illegal build will lead to damaged parts.

    Thus, the people at LEGO will look for, and change out obsolete part, fix illegal builds, try to reduce unnecessary parts (ie 8 1×1 for a single 2×4 brick), and add color variety inside build that are normally not seen in finished build. They try to avoid making new part(s) for any of LEGO Ideas and they tended to shy away from license -required model. ie they have Disney and can build pretty much anything from Disney including Star Wars and Marvel but they will not touch Star Trek because it’d require new license.

    PS did you know? When old mold is retired, they won’t send it out as there’s risk it’d get stolen by competitor. Instead, all of the retired molds are gathered together and dumped in the ground and buried under concrete when new LEGO factories are built so the mold can’t ever be stolen without anyone knowing.

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