A few days ago, Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, Creative Director for LEGO Star Wars and the leader of the awesome LEGO Star Wars design team took the time to answer questions from LEGO Star Wars fans via a Reddit AMA (Ask-Me-Anything). I thought this was a really interesting session, so below I reproduced the questions and Jens’ answers (with slight editing for clarity and grammar). They give a unique glimpse into the life of a LEGO designer.
First, Jens shared a bit about his career with the LEGO Group: “I started as model designer in 1998. The first project I was involved in was LEGO Rock Raiders. Launched in 1999, I designed two models for that theme – #4940 LEGO Rock Raiders Granite Grinder and #4990 LEGO Rock Raiders HQ. Soon after, I started on LEGO Star Wars, making the sketch model for the Y-Wing in set #7150 in the LEGO Star Wars TIE Fighter and Y-Wing set. I have been working on LEGO Star Wars ever since! All these years later, I am still an avid builder and build all the products we create at least once! Beside model design, I have also sculpted many new elements, like animals, minifigure wigs, hats, and alien minifigures heads. A couple of years ago I was a guest speaker at a design conference in the UK called Offset, and you can learn more about me from the interview there.”
QUESTION: Take us briefly through the design process… I have always wondered, do you guys do a top down design? For instance, do you formulate an idea and THEN figure out how to make it happen with the bricks/pieces available? Or is the LEGO engineering/brick building present at every point in the design stages?
ANSWER: We normally set the assortment first together with Lucasfilm. Then we create it in LEGO. We are always trying to make the models from existing LEGO elements, but sometimes we create new ones to get the design right.
QUESTION: What is your all time favorite LEGO Star Wars set and why?
ANSWER: I have many favorites. One is the #10179 LEGO Star Wars UCS Millennium Falcon, as it was the largest LEGO set at that time. Another favorite is the Death Star sets, because they have a lot of minifigures, and you can play out all the scenes happening on the Death Stars in the movies.
QUESTION: Hello Jens, thank you for doing this with us. I have a question. Are you given a list of elements that you are encouraged to use because there are is a large number on hand? Or that they are easy for LEGO to produce? I’m thinking of the various colored parts that are hidden inside of builds, usually of contrasting colors to the rest of the build. Cheers!
ANSWER: Hello! No, we are not asked to use any specific colors for our models. The reason that we use a lot of colored elements hidden inside the models, is to give a better building experience. Imagine if you got a huge pile of only grey pieces! A model like that would be almost impossible to build! And finding the pieces would take forever!
QUESTION: Do you use 3D printers to prototype new models and pieces?
ANSWER: We are using 3D printers, in the designing process. When we create new elements, we need them right away for building models, so it is much faster to 3D print, then wait until the mold for the element is ready.
QUESTION: As an engineer, I am fascinated by the technical side of LEGO set design. I know designers are constrained to using currently produced parts and colors. I would love to know more about the management of available parts and colors given that it’s actually a pretty limited set. 1.) Who decides the existing color-palette for LEGO parts? For example, what prompted the return of turquoise and the new coral color in the past year? 2.) What is the process for requesting an existing mold in a new color? 3.) When existing elements aren’t enough, how does requesting a new mold for the set you’re designing work? I’mless interested in specialized parts like animals or minifigure accessories, more general elements like the recent Element ID 36840.
ANSWER: The color-palette is set across the company each year, and we are all working with the same palette. In the project, we can decide to make pieces in new colors, and we often do. When we are making new molded elements in LEGO Star Wars, most of these are used for minifigure parts, e.g. wigs and helmets. We are also making more regular LEGO elements. When we do that, we try to make them as universal as possible, so that they may be used for other things that what they were initially intended for.
QUESTION: Did anything change much for you when Disney took over Star Wars?
ANSWER: Actually, not much changed at all! The design process is the same, and we are working together with the same people from Lucasfilm.
QUESTION: Which brick do you like the most? And, which one is the most versatile in your opinion?
ANSWER: The 2×4 LEGO brick is my favorite! It’s the one that started it all, and with that brick only, you can create almost anything. We are also using it as often as we can in LEGO Star Wars models!
QUESTION: Excellent choice, classic brick. What color?
ANSWER: The light grey because it is used the most.
QUESTION: Was there a set you were fond of which never made it to shelves? I know lots love the Yavin IV set which was featured in one the books a while ago.
ANSWER: We have a lot of ideas, and create a lot of sketch models. Therefore, not all of them end up as products. We keep them in the office, for potential future use! That is also the case with the Yavin IV model that was shown in the book.
QUESTION: Is there a chance of another AT-AT being released or even a possible UCS version?
ANSWER: I cannot answer in details about our future sets. We are always looking for new cool things, but as you might know, we are also looking back and creating new versions of models we have made before. So you never know what can happen!
QUESTION: You said you’ve built every LEGO Star Wars set. Which set(s) did you find the most difficult/time-consuming to build? And follow up question: Which set was the most complex to design?
ANSWER: Both questions have the same answer! The UCS Millennium Falcon is both the most time consuming built, and it was also probably the most difficult one to design. This is because of the size and weight, and because the model’s stability is important, and it gets more difficult the bigger the model is.
QUESTION: What’s your favorite theme other than Star Wars and why? Always wanted to know what a designer would think.
ANSWER: I can only answer for myself here, and I like all LEGO, and very much LEGO Technic, I am amazed by the features and functions the LEGO Technic design team built into their models!
QUESTION: What’s your favorite Star Wars movie?
ANSWER: A New Hope.
Jens answered thirteen questions in the initial Q&A period, but since then, other great questions accumulated as well. Jens said he will try to come back to them when he can take a break from designing Star Wars sets. If you are interested to check out the other questions and follow up on future answers, bookmark this page on Reddit.
What do you think? How did you like this Q&A session with Jens? What questions would you like to ask him? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below!
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