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LEGO FORMA set & skin packs review

by admin on March 14, 2019

in LEGO Exclusives

The last time we talked about LEGO FORMA was at the beginning of the year (see links at the end of this post). As you may remember, LEGO FORMA is the result of a unique collaboration between LEGO and Indiegogo to test out a new product concept as well as a new marketing strategy. At the end of January, we reported that there were some unexpected shipping delays due to the busy holiday shipping season. Then, there was another delay because some of the stock shipped to the U.S. got water damaged. However, the LEGO FORMA team has been really good at updating backers about what was happening, and everyone who pre-ordered the set through Indiegogo should have received their package by now. 🙂

LEGO FORMA was marketed as a premium LEGO experience designer for adults looking for a fun, engaging way to reconnect with their creative side. According to the LEGO FORMA page at Indiegogo, “LEGO FORMA mechanical models are cleverly designed but simple to assemble. Sturdy rods and parts combine with customizable skins to create a joyful creative challenge. Taking design cues from nature, LEGO FORMA incorporates life-like movement, colors, and patterns. The result is an elegant conversation piece that’s a tasteful addition to any room.”

LEGO was only looking for 500 backers during their Indiegogo campaign to produce the first LEGO FORMA sets. However, they ended up with 6,570 backers, even though the campaign was restricted to the U.S. and the U.K. This, of course, indicates great success. Backers could select various packages during the fundraising phase of the project. The LEGO FORMA Super Box included the #81000 Koi Model with the moving LEGO Technic frame and the basic Koi Skin, plus additional three skins (#81001 LEGO FORMA Shark Skin, #81002 LEGO FORMA Splash Koi Skin, #81003 LEGO FORMA Ink Koi Skin) for $85. Backers could also purchase the main model separately for $45, and additional skins for $15 each.

I received my LEGO FORMA set a couple of weeks ago (I ordered the LEGO FORMA Super Box with the base model and all the additional skins), and I finally had time to build it. Below are my thought and impression on the LEGO FORMA set, the additional skins, and the building experience.

LEGO FORMA PACKAGING: As I mentioned above, the #81000 LEGO FORMA base model was offered for $45 during the Indiegogo campaign. The set includes only 293 pieces, which comes to over 15 cents per piece. That’s a very high price, but this is clearly an item that was marketed to adults and collectors looking for niche experiences and unique products. With such items, presentation and packaging is very important.

The #81000 LEGO FORMA base model is packaged in the same style box as the LEGO Architecture and LEGO Ideas sets with a flip-up lid. The box is all white with minimal graphics at the back and sides and a splash of color at the front with an artistic rendition of a Koi. The whole thing is quite elegant, and reminds me of the packaging of high-end electronics.

The instruction booklet has the same image at the front, and it only includes the building steps. There is no additional information on the development of this unique product, which is kind of unfortunate. Also, the paper is very thin, like in regular LEGO sets. Not the higher quality paper we find in LEGO Architecture and LEGO Ideas sets.

Although the instructions don’t include any details about the set, there is a separate Thank You! note included with the following text in three languages (English, French, and Spanish): “Thank you for letting us add a splash of creativity to your day! This is the LEGO Group’s very first pilot and partnership with Indiegogo. We appreciate your purchase and can’t wait to hear what you think. LEGO FORMA is a new type of LEGO project and we hope you enjoy the entire process from sorting the pieces to building the model to do displaying it on your desk or at home. Thank you for trying out LEGO FORMA. This creative journey wouldn’t be possible without you! – With love and passion from the LEGO Forma Team”

The additional skin packs come in a cardboard envelope, very similar to what is used for mailing documents by various shipping companies. Inside, there are two sheets with the skin, a packet of LEGO FORMA pins, and a folded sheet with instructions to attach the skin.

LEGO FORMA PARTS SELECTION: The parts for the #81000 LEGO FORMA base model are in standard clear, unnumbered baggies. All of them are regular LEGO Technic pieces (axles, gears, tubes, pins, etc.). The prominent parts colors are white and black, but there is also some dark-gray, light-gray, and tan, plus a little bit of red, yellow, and blue. The only unique piece is the LEGO FORMA pins to attach the skins, which was specifically made for these sets. They are basically LEGO Technic pins with a ridge to hold the skins in place and a slightly rounded head. Thirty pins are included, plus a couple of extras with both the base model and the additional skins. (Second image shows the extra parts left over after building.)

LEGO FORMA SKINS: Both the base model and the additional skin packs include two sheets with the skins. The LEGO FORMA team consistently referred to the skins as foils. I was curious to see what they meant by this. Are they made of thin plastic like LEGO sails and tents? Are they made of paper? Or, some other material they haven’t used before? I’m still not sure what is the exact material, but it feels like slightly vinyl-ized paper – something you might encounter in better quality business cards. It feels fairly durable, and bends easily to create shapes without being too flimsy. I don’t think it would tear easily, but it does develop creases if you handle them roughly. I have to say I’m not completely sold on this material. It feels too papery, and I do have some concerns about its long-term durability. This makes me hesitant to swap out the skins, as the special LEGO FORMA pins are hard to remove without putting pressure on the skins.

The colors of the skins are beautiful! The most striking is the #81002 LEGO FORMA Splash Koi Skin, but I also really like the Koi in the base model, as well as the #81003 LEGO FORMA Ink Koi (which could be left as is, or colored in with markers like an adult coloring book). The #81001 LEGO FORMA Shark Skin has a different shape than the other three models with a bluish-gray and white color-scheme.

LEGO FORMA BUILDING EXPERIENCE: The #81000 LEGO FORMA base model is the only LEGO FORMA set that includes the LEGO Technic skeleton. While the skeleton is only 291 pieces, it is quite complex, including a white base made of interconnected tubes, a gearbox, extension arms, and the body of the fish made up of four connected frames. The building experience is absorbing, fun, and educational. Not too long as to get you frustrated, and not too short to make you feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth. (It took me just about an hour to build the base model).

Once you build the skeleton, you can check out how the mechanism works. It’s pretty interesting to see how the different sections interact and move in sequence. Then, it’s time to attach parts of the skin! Although it wasn’t hard to connect the skin pieces with the special pins, I did realize pretty quickly that it’s not something I would enjoy doing regularly. There are thirty pins used in total, and removing them is difficult, painful on the fingers, and puts stress on the skins. (I did try using a brick-separator, but it didn’t help much.) The conclusion of pretty much everyone who had a chance to build this set is that it would be better to build extra skeletons for the additional skins, rather than trying to change them out. In the video-review below, you can see how the mechanism works, and all the different skins.

In summary, the LEGO FORMA set and additional skins have some plusses and minuses. I like the minimalist design of the frame and the exposed mechanism. It looks complex and sophisticated, while remaining muted in form and color. This is contrasted by the rounded shapes and splashes of color of the fish. The completed set looks like a work of art and makes a striking display. The kinetic feature adds interactivity, which is another plus. The design, shape, and colors of the fish are beautiful! I know many people prefer the shark because its fearsome look, but I like all three of the Koi models the most.

On the other hand, the instructions could have been printed on better quality paper, and a page or two about the design team and how the models were developed would have been welcome. The skins are fairly durable, but I would be hesitant to change them out regularly. Changing out the skins is not a pleasant experience due to the difficulty (and painfulness) of removing the pins and the possibility of damaging the skins. This takes away one of the original selling points of LEGO FORMA; promising a relaxing experience by swapping out the skins. I think it would be better to build separate skeletons for each model (which means spending extra money).

You could also consider building a partial skeleton just with the frame of the fish and the three long rods. It’s much easier to swap out the models by removing them from above the gearbox where the three rods connect. This would take fewer pieces, and no need to build additional bases and gearboxes. Or, you could do something like what Jason Allemann has done, and use the LEGO FORMA model as a starting point for your own amazing kinetic sculptures. In the video below, Jason talks about how he improved the movement of the original set, added a brick-built shark, and even built a decorative base!

To encourage creativity and taking LEGO FORMA to new levels, the LEGO FORMA team also made the building instructions of the LEGO FORMA base set available online, which you can find here. And, if you want to see step-by-step instructions on how to attach the Koi Skin you can find it here, and the Shark Skin here. Last, but not least, if you want to come up with your own design for your LEGO FORMA model you can find blank versions of the Koi Skin here and the Shark Skin here. The visuals below show where the different parts of the skins belong.

The LEGO FORMA team is also eager to hear feedback from LEGO fans. If you were a backer of the Indiegogo campaign, you can share your thoughts in the comment sections at the Indiegogo page. You can also share on social media by using the hashtag #LEGOFORMA, and, of course, you are welcome to share and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

TomTom March 14, 2019 at 11:57 AM

Very interesting review. Thanks for sharing. I like the idea of Lego making kinetic sculptures, but I don’t like those paper/plastic parts. They should use regular pieces, or pieces like in Bionicle and other large figures. I’m curious if they are going to continue with this line.

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Martin March 14, 2019 at 12:15 PM

I agree with this. Kinetic sculptures would be a great fit for Lego. It could be a spinoff of Technic. Technic is all vehicles right now. This doesn’t need to be the case, and Forma could add some variety of interesting machines that are not vehicles.

However, the skins being flimsy like that probably won’t get much support. People are willing to pay high prices for Lego because it’s durable. With 293 pieces this set should have been $30 max. The addon skins should be no more than $10 and should be made of better material.

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admin March 14, 2019 at 2:39 PM

I assume pricing would get better if this turns into a whole line. The skins are actually fairly durable for what they are, but they are certainly not what we are accustomed to from LEGO.

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admin March 14, 2019 at 2:38 PM

No word at this point if they are planning to continue. But they are gathering feedback from people who received their sets already.

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JasonK March 14, 2019 at 12:27 PM

This would have been so much better with real parts! Get rid of those flimsy skins, and they will sell much better!

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FrenchToast March 14, 2019 at 12:30 PM

Do I see two of the Ink Koi skins on your picture? How did you get two? Did you buy an extra?

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admin March 14, 2019 at 2:41 PM

Good notice, ha! I got the Super Box, which included the basic set and the three additional skins. I got an extra Ink Koi because I was one of the winners in a little contest the LEGO Forma team ran during the campaign. 😀

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DavidH March 14, 2019 at 12:48 PM

I would like to see lego branching out to sets like these. I wouldn’t even mind the foils as long as they improve the quality. Cracking, like on your picture, shouldn’t be happening in a brand new set.

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admin March 14, 2019 at 2:43 PM

To be fair, I folded that piece three times to see how durable it is and to figure out if it is plastic or paper. It’s hard to tell, but it appears more papery than plastic-y. Adding and removing the skins would definitely cause damage over time. Those pins are hard to remove! But LEGO’s idea was that people will also make their own skins using the templates.

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brickmaster March 14, 2019 at 4:57 PM

Thank you for this interesting review. How do you like the set? Like, do you think it was worth it? Or do you wish you didn’t get it? And do you think there are some customization potentials?

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admin March 14, 2019 at 11:08 PM

Good questions. The set is unique, and I feel that it’s a significant part of LEGO’s history. It may not be perfect, but it does make a nice display piece, and looks very interesting. I do not at all regret getting it.

Would I buy more sets like this if they make this a whole series? I do like the idea of LEGO releasing kinetic sculptures, and I think the mechanism of this set is great. I also like the idea of more feminine/artsy LEGO Technic sets. But I would want them to improve the material of the skins before I would put any more money into such sets. I think that’s the weak link in the concept. I don’t think they necessarily need to use standard ABS plastic pieces (like Jason’s shark), but I would expect something more durable than what the skins are made of now.

As far as the customization potential of this set, LEGO’s idea was that we will be making custom skins. I have considered that, but because the pins are so hard to remove, and there are so many of them, plus because I don’t want to damage the official skins, it is unlikely that I will be doing it anytime soon, or anytime at all.

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Håkan March 15, 2019 at 5:30 AM

Hmmm, I had kinda expected the skins to be made out of soft plastic, laminated paper or something, but if they’re made of fragile paper, it’s a clear negative.

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admin March 15, 2019 at 10:55 PM

It is laminated paper. Not particularly fragile, but repeated use will definitely crease it as shown in my picture. I would have preferred them to be made of thin plastic.

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Giza March 15, 2019 at 9:52 AM

The shark is awesome and I like the koi too. If they can do them for better prices I could see these going well for certain audiences. I’m fairly certain that even my grandma would like it!

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admin March 15, 2019 at 10:56 PM

Yes, I think adults who are not as familiar with LEGO would enjoy sets like this.

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Will March 16, 2019 at 12:48 AM

Having my own LEGO Forma I’m also not thrilled with the foils. But not exactly for the reasons others have.

Generally, the quality of the skin feels okay and it will last a decent time provided I don’t abuse them. After all, these were geared for adults and not made for play like with most LEGO products.

The reason I don’t care for them is that they fail to provide any additional build opportunities. I think those calling for more standard pieces have a similar view point. One thing I love about LEGO is I see a new part, and now my building opportunity has expanded. This on the other hand can really only be one thing and that’s it.

I feel the same way with pirate sails. They look fantastic, hold up well, but I don’t get any more options. Now the triangle sails with no pattern are a different story.

The problem is that want an ultra realistic look that can be super affordable. Being a one-off model it is obvious that there is a pretty massive mark up for producing these.

I will admit, it is a different way to approach customization.

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admin March 16, 2019 at 3:17 PM

Funny you mention that. About a week ago I saw someone using one of the FORMA fins in a really creative way. (I think it was some kind of a futuristic fantasy setting), I thought I saved the picture, but for the life of me I can’t find it right now. I remember thinking, that it was so creative. I also thought that the foils were too specific, but when I saw that build, it changed my mind. LEGO fans are awesome, even when LEGO gives us something weird. 😀

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admin March 16, 2019 at 3:31 PM

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