(Written by William)
The LEGO Ideas platform is a unique and innovative initiative where LEGO fans can work together with the company to release fan-suggested models under the LEGO brand. LEGO’s own designers go over the accepted models to make sure they are in line with their quality standards. This may result in a number of alterations, but in general, LEGO designers try to remain as faithful to the original submission as possible. Thus, the LEGO Ideas line doesn’t just provide unique sets, but also gives us an opportunity to get an in-depth sample of how other LEGO fans think. 🙂
The #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store is a particularly good example, as LEGO designers stayed very close to the original fan-created model. This is why I want to devote this entire Brick Breakdown to looking at some of the most common differences between fan-created models and typical LEGO sets. Again, the #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store did go through the screening process by LEGO designers, but it is still the closest to a fan-created model in an official LEGO set we can all examine together. So let’s take a look.
➡ COLOR-PALETTE IN LEGO VS. FAN DESIGNED SETS
In no way are any LEGO sets lacking in color. In fact, LEGO often goes out of its way to give us truly vibrant and different colors in a single set. This way of mixing color groups make official LEGO sets more appropriate and friendly for younger builders. The contrast is also appreciated by those who have issues with differentiating colors that are too similar. This is especially helpful while following the building instructions.
LEGO fans also like to use colors, but they usually stay within a single color group to create models that are more realistic and lifelike. These sophisticated creations often don’t even look like LEGO. In the #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store, we see an abundance of grays, browns, tans, and the more earthy greens. All these colors give a weathered look that looks very realistic, but could also be considered a bit dull.
➡ DENSITY IN LEGO VS. FAN DESIGNED SETS
A fairly obvious difference between fan-created models compared to official LEGO sets is their density. LEGO fans want to make their models as perfect and realistic as possible without skimping on pieces or cutting cost. This makes fan models look and feel quite dense.
For official LEGO sets, price, size, playability, and the age-group the set is marketed for have to be taken into consideration. For younger fans, sets shouldn’t take too long to build, they should be stable, and they should also be fully accessible for play. In addition, the price should be reasonable and in line with other higher quality toys.
There are denser official LEGO sets that are similar to fan-created models, and are marketed to adult hobbyists with more patience and deeper pockets. They include significantly more parts, take much longer to build, and are more expensive than LEGO sets aimed at children. The #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store is an excellent example of such a set, so are the LEGO Modular Buildings, and the LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series.
It is worth noting that building denser does not always mean the model is going to be more stable. In fact, the opposite could be true. Having more pieces means more weight. And more weight means more strain is placed on connection points. This could lead to stability issues. The #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store gets around this by being a fairly simple building. Buildings don’t typically get moved around much. Also, the various levels of the building are closely interlocked for stability.
➡ VARIETY OF TECHNIQUES IN LEGO VS. FAN DESIGNED SETS
LEGO fans aren’t really interested in providing a pleasant or unique building experience for others. They are building their own models with the end goal of presenting something amazing. Because the focus is on the end result, LEGO fans tend to stick with techniques they already know and have had plenty of practice with. Sure, they may include some clever or unusual details here and there, but as a whole, fan-models are actually fairly limited when it comes to building techniques.
Official LEGO sets, on the other hand, aren’t just focusing on the final model, but also endeavor to make the building experience interesting, educational, and age-appropriate. Even for people who usually build their own models, it can be very beneficial to at least occasionally pick up an official LEGO set. LEGO designers are masters at presenting new building techniques, and new ways of using parts. This is why I run this Brick Breakdown series; there is almost always something new to learn from official LEGO sets.
The #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store didn’t surprise me with anything particularly unique when it comes to techniques. This is understandable, as it was a fan-submitted model to begin with. I did find it interesting that the roof just rests on the building, and that it uses clips and bars for its peak. I also like how the door/wall opens up for accessibility, but this can be seen in other toy buildings as well. While the #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store may not be a source of unique techniques, it utilizes existing techniques to their full potential. In this regard, it is closer to fan-created models compared to official LEGO sets.
➡ SUBJECT EXPERTISE IN LEGO VS. FAN DESIGNED SETS
Reading over this review, you may get the impression that official LEGO sets are always better than fan-created models. Official LEGO sets provide more vivid colors, they grasp structural integrity so well, and they provide not just a great model, but also a memorable building experience. But, there is at least one area where official sets often lack compared to fan-models; intimate and detailed understanding of the subject.
LEGO designers obviously have their own interests and expertise in various subject matters outside of LEGO. They may be fanatic Star Wars fans, knowing every little detail of the saga, or they may know a lot about marine life. If LEGO designers luck out, they can work on projects they have an intimate connection with. But, designing LEGO sets is also their job, and thus they sometimes have to work on projects which may not be their interest. Designing official LEGO sets also means following certain parameters, like budget, building for the target age group, deadlines, etc.
In the designer-video for the #10260 LEGO Creator Downtown Diner, LEGO Senior Designer Mike Psiaki advises those who want like to join the LEGO design team, to practice building models they normally wouldn’t want to work on (watch the video here). This is an extremely insightful statement that points out the profound difference between those who’s job is to design LEGO sets, and LEGO fans who can build whatever they really love and have an interest in.
As LEGO fans, we never have to separate the building toy we love from the subject matter we would like to build. If we want to build Star Wars, we can build the most amazing Star Wars creations, including every single authentic detail from the films that may have taken us years to learn and absorb. Or, we can build the most realistic and detailed marine life creation if we are into studying fish, corals and whatever magic the great oceans and seas hold.
It’s not that LEGO designers aren’t putting their full effort into a project they are tasked to work on, but it is a very different experience compared to building something where you have intimate knowledge and love of the subject, and you have full reign over how much time, money, and effort you put into it. This makes fan-creations often appear significantly more authentic and closer to the real thing than what LEGO can typically produce themselves.
The #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store really stands out in this regard as a beautifully detailed fan-model that just happened to become an official LEGO set. It is very obvious that the original fan designer has great love and intimate knowledge of the subject. This is evidenced by the little details all over the set. As an example, it struck me how the display of the flippers came together. I would not have considered that particular solution, but it feels like the real thing. Little touches like that are what you can expect from a fan who can’t help but demonstrate his expertise of the subject.
➡ APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARN
I normally write about all the news and exciting ways you can utilize LEGO elements by studying the building techniques in official LEGO sets. This blog post is quite different in this regard, as none of the building techniques used in the #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store are unique. However, we can study the areas in which LEGO fans tend to lack, and learn how to improve ourselves. Improvements usually come after self-analysis. After all, we can’t change, if we don’t recognize how we do things in the first place. That’s why I wanted to dedicate this article to point out the ways LEGO fans tend to differ from official LEGO designers. This is not so much to say one way is better than the other, but rather, the goals we have can create very different results.
If you are a novice builder, for instance, you can benefit from the techniques I mentioned here; exploring the use of a focused color-palette to achieve realistic results, or doing extensive research on the subject matter you would like to build. More advanced builders can focus on studying their own creations with a more critical eye. After analyzing a creation, you can ask yourself things like, “What was my goal in building this like that?” and “Did my creation fully achieve the goal I had in mind?” You can even ask yourself in smaller ways like, “What do I really want this element to do?” or “Is there another way to make this?” By asking these questions, you can not only learn about techniques you prefer, but also find ways to incorporate techniques you may have learned and had trouble using in the past. Because there may be no wrong way to build, there is always a way to do better!
What do you think? How do you like the #21310 LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store? Is this a set you already have and built? What were your own impressions of it? Are there any other differences you noticed between official LEGO sets and custom models? Feel free to share your thought and own review in the comment section below! 😉
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