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Interview: LEGO Certified Stores (Bricks World) LEGO Friends Exclusive Designer Interview

LEGO Friends Exclusive Designer Interview (September 2016)

Q) What is your role at The LEGO Group?
A) I work as a Senior Designer in the LEGO Friends team, where I am involved in the development of new products and play experiences to build the LEGO Friends universe.

Q) What is the best thing about your job?
A) Besides getting to play with LEGO® bricks every day, the best thing about my job is definitely working with such a diverse and creative group of people. The LEGO design team comes from all over the world, with over 250 designers from 35 countries. With a huge mix of personalities and professional backgrounds, I am constantly learning and being inspired by the different designers’ approaches to play and ways of building with the system.

Q) When did you first realise that you wanted to become a LEGO designer?
A) As a child, I was always creative and loved making things, so it seemed natural to study Product Design Engineering at university. I soon developed a fun and playful approach to design, and during a first year project to design a new toy, I found my passion, and knew that toy design was the job for me. And where better to do that than at the LEGO Group – with a toy rooted in my earliest memories and a design company I have looked up to throughout university.

Q) Next year marks the 5th anniversary of the launch of the hugely popular LEGO Friends series. Why did the team decide to create Minidolls and not use Minifigures?
A) When we set out on the project that became LEGO Friends, the goal was to create a true LEGO experience for the girls out there that were not playing with LEGO bricks. We wanted to create a product that was relevant and meaningful to them.

For 4 years, we researched what the girls needed from this experience. The figure was a big part of that research, and though we developed early concepts with the Minifigure - which some girls loved - we found there were also many out there looking for something more realistic, detailed and beautiful that they could reflect themselves in more easily for roleplay. It was with this key insight that we developed the Minidoll.

Although we developed a new figure, it was very important to the LEGO Group that it remain true to the brand – it is still buildable, fits within the system and is compatible with the same wigs and accessories.

5 years on, the Minidoll has opened up a whole world of LEGO building to so many girls, and is featured in many new lines beyond LEGO Friends.

Q) Where do you and your team get the inspiration for the LEGO Friends sets?
A) We are a very diverse team, so different people find inspiration in different places. It comes from all around us - an interesting article we have read online, an upcoming fashion trend, an art exhibition, the beautiful architecture of a new city we have visited, or playing and building with our products alongside kids - it all comes together to inspire new ideas. The key is that we share that inspiration across the team, using it to inspire one another and in turn, spark new ideas to grow the LEGO Friends universe.

Q) Which was your favourite Friends set in 2016 and why?
A) Honestly, I love all of the sets for 2016. Each year, we bring new themes to Heartlake City and push ourselves to create the coolest products possible. This year, we see the city grow with places like the delicious Cupcake Café and the Heartlake Riding Club with it’s new style of architecture. We are also introducing an Amusement Park, with more challenging builds and lots of exciting functions like in the Amusement Park Roller Coaster.
But if I have have to pick a favourite, I think it would be the hotdog van. It’s just fun all the way, from the hotdog shaped van, to the mermaid photo opportunity. And who wouldn’t want to see Minidoll in a hotdog suit?

Q) The new LEGO Friends Amusement Park Space Ride (41128) moves very realistically, how many attempts were made to get it to work so well?
A) We started to explore the amusement park concept a while back, and this ride immediately stood out as one that had a lot of potential and fun. Getting the model to spin for several rounds and not wobble was a bit of a challenge though. The model went through the hands of several different designers, with around 15 different variations before we finally came to the solution you see in the box today. We love how the rockets spread out as it starts, then slow down naturally, just like in a real ride.

Q) We know some designers add a touch of themselves/their personal lives in the sets they design. Are there any you would like to share with us?
A) Mia’s car was one of the first products I worked on as a LEGO designer, so it was pretty exciting to see my initials on the number plate.
This year I worked on the Heartlake Riding Club, at the same time as a good friend was planning her wedding in a converted stable. I was a Bridesmaid, so I managed to sneak the date of their wedding onto the noticeboard in the entrance on the model.

Q) Any advice you can give any young aspiring LEGO designers?
A) Be creative. In any way you can. Creativity can come in many different forms, whether it’s building, making stories, drawing, whatever. The most important thing, is that you use your creativity and encourage it to grow.
Most LEGO designers have an education in design, so if you are really interested in joining the team one day, it is a good idea to consider this.
And finally – build! Anything your imagination can think of. It doesn’t need to be perfect. The more you build, the better you will get.

Q) And finally, the most important question of all. What is your favourite LEGO brick and why?
A) That is a tough question! When we are designing the sets for LEGO Friends, we always try to ensure they are rich in details, so my favourite bricks are probably the ones that allow me to instantly add detail like the 1x1 flower element, 1x2 brick with brick detail, and the decorative brick element with the swirl we created for the Grand Hotel.

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