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Q and A with Mike Rayhawk, LEGO Concept Designer

Discussion of photography, editing and publishing techniques

Postby Rubberchickenknight » Fri Dec 23, 2005 7:44 pm

Wow, Mike Rayhawk on C-C! You're KKII drawings are awesome! I've never seen them before, but I've seen you're awesome Brikwars art. Keep up the great art!
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Postby Rayhawk » Fri Dec 23, 2005 8:59 pm

Recluce wrote:Can I tell you how pleased I am to hear that you know of rub'n buff? Ahh, yes, I certainly should have guessed you'd be on the dark side: you're an artist! Yes, that's right all you purists out there, he's a customizer! [sigh] I'm just so happy I don't know what to say.

On concept work, making up new minifigs and elements is almost a daily occurrence - being able to custom up some physical examples is infinitely better for communicating new concepts than just drawing pictures.

While the dear-LEGO forums don't often have stuff that applies to me, I follow the customization forums religiously. Anything that gives me a leg up on the other concept guys, however temporary.

Can I still count as a purist if it becomes a real LEGO element after I customize it?

Recluce wrote:I'm glad you have and play with the Lego you help create. It speaks volumes of your confidence and satisfaction in the job you do. I know many of the lego employees either play with it themselves, or encourage their children to play with it. And I'm sure that it really enhances your art.... nothing like knowing what would appeal to the kids playing with Lego simply because you are a big kid playing with Lego!

Being an AFOL is actually a handicap in some ways - the designers who have kids playing with the toys have a big advantage over the designers who play with the toys themselves. Designs that appeal to the AFOL mindset are great for older kids, but younger kids don't play in the same way. Whenever an AFOL says "when I was a kid" he usually means "when I was 8 or 9" and forgets just how completely different his play styles and psychology were at ages 6 or 7. It 's taken me a long time to get past that mental roadblock.

Blueandwhite wrote:I was wondering, are there any MOCs or AFOL builders that truly impress you? For many castle fans such as myself, builders like Jojo, Dr. Carney and Marakoeschtra have provided unequalled inspiration. What fan-based MOCs (if any) have inspired you?

I tend to keep a close watch on anything NELUG is doing, and there are a couple guys here in LUGOLA that I keep an eye on as well. There's so many specific guys that I could name - Shaun Sullivan, Dave Eaton, Bryce McGlone, Dan Jassim, Kotaro Ono - I have a giant folder of BrickShelf bookmarks on the computer at work. I also have a small army of AFOLs instant-messaging me with links whenever they come across something cool, and anything that gets mentioned over on MCN or Golden Shpleem automatically gets a look.

Lately I'm getting inspired by crazy small-element construction techniques. Eugi, my partner-in-crime at the studio, follows the Japanese sites like Roboplan, where they're doing things that are just insane.
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Postby Rayhawk » Fri Dec 23, 2005 9:09 pm

I'm heading off on my annual Christmas road trip today, so I won't be able to answer questions quite as fast after this. I'll try and keep checking back in again every now and then when I stop somewhere with internet access, but hopefully you guys have enjoyed the stuff I've been able to talk about so far. I always have fun talking about LEGO work, I only wish there were more of it that I was allowed to discuss.
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Postby Bruce N H » Sat Dec 24, 2005 12:25 am

Hey Mike,

I've been enjoying the inside peeks we've gotten in this thread. I really like your original concept for the transforming castle--much cooler than simply having the flags change and some other color changes. I'd love to see you build that in bricks some day. Are discarded concepts "legal" to publish, or do you still need to get permission to show off such things?

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Postby JacobS » Sat Dec 24, 2005 3:57 am

thanks for anwering our questions

how did you get your job at TLG?
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Postby Lord_Of_The_LEGO » Sat Dec 24, 2005 4:20 am

JacobS wrote:thanks for anwering our questions

how did you get your job at TLG?


From earlier in the thread:

Rayhawk wrote:
Blueandwhite wrote:I suppose its ok to ask how you happened upon such an interesting career. Looking at your portfolio, it is apparent that you are quite an accomplished artist. I was wondering how you ended up working with LEGO?

I went to a school with a very, very strong product design department, at a time when LEGO was re-activating a dormant concept studio in town. The new manager came to the school to interview graduating product designers for positions. Meanwhile, by complete coincidence, I was hanging up an illustration exhibition of Lego paintings. One of my friends caught the manager and dragged him over to my show, and the rest was history. At the time it was considered a crazy experiment, hiring an illustrator to do product design work. Now, three years later, the large majority of the designers in our concept studio are illustration grads.

I wrote a longer version of the story on Lugnet shortly after word got out - you can still read it here. It's basically useless for helping you figure out how to get a LEGO job though.

If a LEGO job is something that you're interested in, you'll need a BFA in a design discipline, and a very strong design portfolio. At our specific studio, we tend to give preferential treatment to Art Center grads, and Otis makes a good showing as well because they have a solid program specifically for toy design. I think we're planning to cast a wide net for more designers over the next several months, so if you're in the L.A. area and have a strong design book, e-mail me and I'll make sure your name gets added to the hat.
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Postby Rayhawk » Sun Dec 25, 2005 5:13 am

Lord Nev wrote:Did you have a hand in the Viking design?

I did concept work on specific aspects of Vikings from time to time, I can't go into much detail.

Bruce N H wrote:Are discarded concepts "legal" to publish, or do you still need to get permission to show off such things?

Exactly the opposite - just to get LEGO to consider letting me show a concept, it's got to already have been turned into real product, so that there'll be no danger of the competitors using the idea themselves. And even then they're hesitant. LEGO sinks a lot of time, money, and expertise into developing these concepts, and isn't ready to just hand them away to the competition.

When a concept doesn't receive approval, that doesn't mean it's a bad concept - it usually just means it doesn't fit into the overall plan for a given year. So no concepts are ever "discarded," the unused ones are archived and we pull them out periodically to see which ones we might revisit.

As a side note: the archives are very, very thorough. If there are big themes we haven't produced, it's not because we haven't thought of them. In all the years I've been following LEGO forums, there's only been one time that I've seen somebody put out a "why doesn't LEGO make theme X" idea that we hadn't already worked on to death, just in my studio alone. (Their idea was to license some obscure comic strip character from before I was born, so it wasn't one that I immediately ran to the studio to tell everyone else about).
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Postby ottoatm » Sun Dec 25, 2005 4:42 pm

Not much to say that hasn't been said here, but I've just seen this entire thread not too long ago (I never realized how fast things move around here!) and I just wanted to say that I really liked looking at all your work. Your original Vladek is amazing, I really like the look and feel of both him and his surrondings in the image.

Your website is also very intersting - it's truly good that LEGO gave you permission to post all that you did - stuff like that makes it all very interesting and encourages the community to get further involved.

EDIT>> Is your avatar from Brikwars? :P
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Postby Rayhawk » Sun Dec 25, 2005 10:53 pm

Still off on my road trip - yesterday I was out visiting the Target where they nailed Bill Swanberg, so I'm still all full of warm Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas everybody! I'm going to try and check out the LEGO store up here before I leave, to see how the "Window into the Community" setup is going and how they're handling a much different consumer base than we've got at my usual shop in Los Angeles.

Sir Kohran wrote:Sorry if this is a bit off-topic, but did you mean the guy on foot in this picture?

You know, I think I misremembered which set of photos were released - but the Morcian soldier character is still out in public, if you look in the comic pages in the backs of the instruction books for this year's Knights sets. Originally we'd been using the soldier as a sympathetic foil in a number of King Mathias' scenes, though he had to be mostly edited out as the product development got closer to the final versions. His one remaining scene is the shot where the Morcian army first arrives at Vladek's fortress, you can see him in center frame 'advising' the King about the fact that the drawbridge is still up.
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Postby Shadow » Mon Dec 26, 2005 12:16 am

Admins: Don't you think you should change Rayhawk title to something more glorious? ;)
Respectfully submitted,

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Postby TwoTonic Knight » Mon Dec 26, 2005 6:32 am

Shadow wrote:Admins: Don't you think you should change Rayhawk title to something more glorious? ;)


Cowabunga, dude, serf's up. 8)

The funny thing is I was just wondering at the start of the month how everything had worked out for Mike at LEGO.
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Postby Recluce » Mon Dec 26, 2005 3:06 pm

Mike, thanks for answering my questions, I'm going to have to see if I still have some of those comics to take a look at. I too am a bit dismayed at the lack of Morcian soldiers (and no, the chess crossbowman do not in any way make up for it). However, I understand why it was done.
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Postby SgtDuckMan » Fri Jun 09, 2006 12:12 am

I know this is highly unlikely but are pirates, c-c or cowboys ever going to show up agien.
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Postby architect » Fri Jun 09, 2006 1:06 am

SgtDuckMan wrote:I know this is highly unlikely but are pirates, c-c or cowboys ever going to show up agien.


LEGO employees are not allowed to talk about future products. As Jake McKee and Steve Witt have said in the past, nothing is ruled out for being made again, if LEGO chooses to do it.

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Postby SavaTheAggie » Fri Jun 09, 2006 5:59 pm

So how much of my soul do I have to sell to get you to illustrate a few scenes from The Kingdom of Ikros like that? Or for a book deal? ;)

I was just visiting your website this morning, and I don't know if I had said it before, but your talent for capturing LEGO in an organic way is just awe inspiring... heck, all of your work LEGO and non-LEGO alike.

(Love the Beholder, BTW).

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