Since LEGO opened itself up to play-set suggestions from the public back in 2008, its LEGO Ideas platform has been responsible for a raft of successful sets based on everything from Ghostbusters to The Big Bang Theory to The Beatles. Billy Langsworthy talks to the LEGO Ideas team about why they feel collaborating with fans is vital.
Where did the LEGO Ideas side of the business originate from?
The LEGO Group has long history of collaborating with our lead user community of passionate and creative fans. The earliest product collaborations started in 2002 with 3739 Blacksmith Shop and later with projects including 10183 Custom Factory Hobby Train, LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT, and the LEGO Architecture line. Based on what we learned collaborating with lead users early on, we decided to open up product collaboration opportunities to the broader public, and begin to consider fan-inspired product ideas at scale.
In 2008, the LEGO Group launched a collaboration with Tokyo-based CUUSOO SYSTEM to crowdsource LEGO product ideas from Japanese consumers. The success of the Japanese LEGO CUUSOO program inspired a 2011 “Global Open Beta” of LEGO CUUSOO, which grew until LEGO Ideas launched April 2014.
What have been some of the notable success stories to come out of LEGO Ideas?
We are huge fans of all of the LEGO Ideas sets. A few notables include the LEGO Minecraft Micro World (2012 – LEGO CUUSOO), which sold so well it inspired three other “micro-scale” sets and the Minifigure scale LEGO Minecraft product line.
Supporters of women in science made the Research Institute (2014) – a small set with three vignettes of women in their laboratories – possible. LEGO Ideas has also struck a chord with space exploration enthusiasts, who have voted for several projects, two of which have been selected as sets; the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover (2013) and the Apollo 11 Saturn-V (coming 2017).
But possibly the most noticeable trend among LEGO Ideas project is the overlap with nostalgic movies, TV shows, and games that has brought us the Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine (2013), Ghostbusters ECTO-1 (2014), Doctor Who (2014), and WALL-E (2015).
Why is it important for LEGO to have this kind of dialogue with fans and designers outside of the company?
Here at the LEGO Group, we know that 99.9 per cent of the smartest people in the world do not work for us.
We are also so fortunate so many passionate and creative people love to build incredible things with LEGO bricks. With LEGO Ideas, we allow our fans to propose different ideas and show us through votes that there is market potential.
As a business, if we did not open ourselves to this kind of dialogue, we would miss out on different types of product ideas that might not make it to market the traditional way. And we would miss creating a shared experience with our most passionate fans where we can celebrate and reward them for their creativity, and bring their ideas to households all around the world.
Has it opened LEGO up to more adult-themed sets?
Our fans have expressed interest in LEGO products that fit brands aimed at an older audience. At the same time, we are very aware that the LEGO brand is primarily for children and families. We take great care that LEGO Ideas products fit LEGO Brand values no matter their target age.
What do you think makes for a successful LEGO Ideas pitch?
Take your time to craft your model, artwork, and description before you submit. Attention spans online are short, and you need to capture peoples’ attention right away and inspire them to support you. Promote your project to communities that already like your subject matter, for example if you built a classic airplane, promote to aviation enthusiasts. We have found the most successful projects bring in new audiences outside the existing LEGO Fan community.
What is coming out soon that has originated from LEGO Ideas?
LEGO Ideas has several exciting sets coming soon. We are looking forward to the Adventure Time set (January 1st, 2017). Also, we are currently designing the Apollo 11 Saturn-V for mid-2017.
How many concepts do you push into development with from LEGO Ideas each year and is this number set to grow in future?
For the last few years, we have released around four products each year. You will just have to wait and see what LEGO Ideas is able to bring in the years to come!