Designing a Timeless Toy

LEGO bricks have been a mainstay of a child’s learning and development ever since 1932 when Ole Kirk Kristiansen, a Danish joiner and carpenter, began making wooden toys. The mission of the company’s products is to “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.” LEGO has stayed true to this philosophy especially through programs like FIRST LEGO League (FLL).

Transcending generations, LEGO bricks have become a timeless toy. Thinking back to my own childhood, I had boxes and boxes of LEGO of all shapes and sizes. I was always trying to one-up my friends with variations of cool new models of race cars, buildings and robots.

The folks at The LEGO Group must have been doing their homework. Their LEGO Creator 3-in-1 series accomplishes this exactly. In any given LEGO Creator box, there are a specific number of blocks of varying shapes, sizes and function. Yet the same blocks yield three very solid unique modeIs. It’s quite an amazing product design when a propeller plane can become a space shuttle and then a helicopter. Three models for the price of one? Not a bad deal if you’re looking to stretch your dollar.

How do designers come up with the great ideas that make up the LEGO Creator lineup? Well, real simple, they draw inspiration from visits to car museums, air shows and zoos, then build lots and lots (and lots) of concept models with all sorts of wild styles and crazy functions.

“We throw bricks together quickly and don’t worry too much about stability or color of creations,” says John-Henry, Amazing LEGO Designer. “By the end of this phase, we have filled our whole 20-person meeting table with models and there is no space for paper and pens!”

The concept models are then shown to kids from all over the world to find out which ones would be the most enjoyable to play with, then rigorously tested for strength. Once the final design is complete, design engineers from all over the company build through the model together, ensuring no mistakes.

What’s your favorite LEGO kit? Have you used any with multiple model variations?

 

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4 thoughts on “Designing a Timeless Toy”

  1. Marc says:

    Hi
    interesting article. You are right , I think everyone has played lego.
    While being on PTC website, It would be interested to know how LEGO manages their product development what type of tool they use from CAD, ( CAM ? ) PDM/PLM, integration with ERP.
    The type of product they make would, from my point of view, be ideal in using in such integrated system. Do you have any info or case study about LEGO ?

    1. Dan Marotta says:

      Marc,

      Thanks for the note. The LEGO Technics business unit is a PTC customer as demonstrated by this discussion, http://communities.ptc.com/message/147697#147697. I’d be happy to reach out to Francois, his team at LEGO and internal folks here at PTC to see if we can pull together a case study to answer some of those questions. Stay tuned.

      Feel free to connect with Francois at LEGO via the link above in the meantime. Perhaps he can speak to some of the points you brought up.

      -Dan

      1. Marc says:

        Hi
        thanks for the link. Interesting but does not demonstrate much. Anyhow, using ProE is one thing but do they have a PLM ? which one, if Windchill which modules do they use, is there an integration with an ERP.

        Lego was in a bad shape more than 10 years ago if I am correct. Did implementing a PDS help improving the situation ?

        Hope a case study can be done, this will be very interesting. Lego is a very successful company !!

      2. Dan Marotta says:

        Marc,

        I’ll be sure to put your questions in front of the right people. The LEGO story/success is something we (PTC and customers) can both learn from

        Thanks again for your interest.

        -Dan

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