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Instruction Booklets

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Instruction Booklets

Postby Hob Took » Wed Jan 07, 2009 3:36 am

First of all, do we even need instruction booklets anymore? Can't we all just look at the box cover and instantly know how to make it? No, I'm not being serious about that, but I am about the following. :wink:

Secondly, is it really necessary to break apart the instructionns into seperate booklets? I can understand for very large sets like 1000+ pieces, but I recently got the Agents set Speedboat Rescue which includes a mere 340 pieces but two instruction booklets. Is it really necessary to split a 340 piece set into a two part instruction booklet?

Thirdly, I'm not blind or anything but it's getting difficult to tell which color is which in the instructions. I remember several years back you could glance at the step and it would be simple to tell which color is which. But now, at least in the instructions, it's hard to tell what's grey and what's black! This is all the more difficult for large sets which have many colors and similar pieces. Outside of the instructions I can tell whats dark grey and what's dark bley easily even with almost no light, my only trouble is when it comes to viewing the instructions. Perhaps it's just me, but I would like the colors in the instruction booklets to be more easily distinguished than they are now.

There, that's my little rant for the day.

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Postby Foamrider » Wed Jan 07, 2009 3:47 am

I agree with the color thing. I've noticed for a few years now actually. Generally you can guess, but I often try speeding through the actual building, and it can be annoying.

Having more then one booklet is also strange. Seems pretty pointless.

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Re: Instruction Booklets

Postby Athos » Wed Jan 07, 2009 5:06 am

Hob Took wrote:Thirdly, I'm not blind or anything but it's getting difficult to tell which color is which in the instructions.

I completely agree. Its well nigh impossible to determine black from dark bley. I made the mistake at least once when putting together the Market Village.

Its really irritating to scour through piles of bricks for a black piece only to not find it and decide it must be dark bley. Or worse is to use a bley piece in place of a black and then not be able to find the required bley piece later, because you've already used it and then having to go back and tear it all apart. :x

Something really needs to be done about this. Better printing of instructions would be nice, but even just labeling the colors in the little diagram that tells you what pieces are needed for that step would help.

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Colour problems.

Postby Baites » Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:25 pm

I've run into the same problem with the colour of instructions. Some of the problem maybe when several black pieces are being used. I find they will lighten the colour of the pieces that are to be assembled in the next step. This causes problems when you have both black, grey and I sometimes find if there are dark browns.

I find it helpful that some sets will have a box in the upper left corner of the step detailing all the pieces you will need.

I also don't understand why in some sets there are two or more booklets when you are dealing with under 500 pieces.
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Postby davee123 » Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:29 pm

The color issues seem to be related to a few issues:

The big issue is darkness of print. It would seem that Lego is afraid of printing its black elements too darkly, for fear that the 'outline' and such surrounding the elements would become impossible to see if they printed black any darker. Hence, because black is printed as dark gray, there's less 'room' in the spectrum to print dark gray and regular gray, forcing all the gray shades (white and black included) closer together.

Occasionally, some black elements are printed as nearly black with *white* or light gray outlines, which (IMHO) solves the problem. However, when I asked Lego about doing this with ALL black elements, they said that this has a tendency to make the images too confusing for kids (I was surprised by that, but that's what they said).

Another issue is shading. Essentially when you shade each face of a Lego element a different color depending on the light source, it can make a white piece look partially gray, or a gray piece look partially dark gray, etc. A couple years back, I advocated to Lego that they do away with much of the shading on elements to make the colors clearer, and found out that there's been some internal debate on the issue, which apparently came under discussion again.

According to one source, Lego set designers for a period of time were asked not to use both dark gray and black elements within a single set, to avoid the confusion. That mandate obviously wasn't strictly enforced across the whole lineup, and possibly was removed all together (I heard it back around 2004 or 2005, I think). But obviously Lego is well aware of the problem.

I (and a few other AFOLs I discussed it with) started noticing this probably around the time of the color change. It's possible that the printed colors were altered around that time, although I'm not aware of any comparisons done between black elements in instruction books as printed in older versus newer prints. Certainly that would be enlightening. It could also be that it went unnoticed until Lego started using larger amounts of dark gray, which was a trend that seemed to start around 1999 or so.

One of the interesting notes on this is that a few of Lego's instructions in 1984 (I haven't seen any other years) feature a "color key" showing that "dark gray = black". The instructions for 6030 Catapult, 6022 Horse Cart, and 6061 Siege Tower each feature this oddity. It is especially interesting in 6061-- in 6061, the black elements used in the small castle is printed in "true black" (with white outlines), while the black elements in the siege tower itself are printed in a more dark grayish color. I suppose 6030's instructions are similarly strange, considering that the technic axle within the catapult is done in "true black", surrounded by "dark gray" black. Very odd. It seems each of these sets feature some elements printed in true black (minifig parts, etc), with the "primarily black" models' pieces in dark gray.

[unable to shut up]
It seems that some sets (1888 Black Knight's Guardshack from 1992 being one that I found) actually feature some ELEMENTS that are printed in both "true black" and dark gray. The majority of black elements in 1983, 1984, and 1985 were all printed in "true black", but some time between then and 1992, it seems that Lego veered more to the dark gray standard. Clearly, more research is needed!

... Quick research shows a switch probably between 1987 and 1988, where most black elements through 1987 were printed in "true black", with a few exceptions. Then, somewhere in that ballpark, they started switching some instructions to be printed with a dark gray-ish black, with detailed greebly pieces done in true black, or just with a white outline.

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Postby DanDanLegoman » Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:08 pm

I like multiple instructions books -- it makes it easier for my wife to help me if we each have a book to work from.
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Postby siabur » Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:47 pm

Yes I do enjoy the single page with one step shown with one piece to be placed. I usually skip ahead.
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Postby DARKspawn » Wed Jan 28, 2009 5:49 am

I totally agree that instructions can be confusing when trying to distinguish dark grey from black. I have always prefered the dipiction of a black brick with a lighter outline, I always found this approach to be the least confusing and it puzzles me that LEGO do not agree. I can imagine there's some poor child out there somewhere rummaging through his bricks looking for that black elelement outlined in white paint ... yeah, right ;)

As for the instruction books they have definitely simplified them. One only has to look at a few instructions from the 70s to see how much clearer they are now. I also think the "two book" approach is meant to encourage sharing with your sibblings (or interested spouse, as in my case) where two people can concievably put together the same set. I think LEGO's packaging and even set design reflect this too.

Just remember that these instructions are made for the target audience, 8 to 12 year-olds. Can we put together a 600 piece model without instructions & only the box art to guide us - probably yes. Can an 8 year-old - no.
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Postby Ye Olde Republic » Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:58 am

It's funny, I have been somewhat annoyed and confused by the two book instructions lately too. I hadn't considered the sharing aspect of it. Does that make me selfish?
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