Blueandwhite wrote:Congrats on your work with KKII. Its unfortunate that we can't discuss the design process, as it is undoubtedly incredibly interesting.
It really is, and a million times more complex than most AFOLs would guess. Luckily I get to spend most of my time in concept design, where it's just about coming up with cool new ideas and making them look shiny, and very little time in product development, where they have to make those ideas fit in with the million other departments, plans, and considerations that anyone who hadn't spent time in that job would never even think of.
It is very very interesting, but it also takes a lot of energy to try and juggle so many completely different design requirements in your head at the same time. I'm always happy to go back to concept lab where our primary considerations are "wow, that looks awesome" and "a set like this would be unbelievably fun to play with."
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.
Blueandwhite wrote:As to the storyline, did you have a great deal of input on that as well, or was it developed by another mystery man?
The primary guy originating the KK storylines is a fellow by the name of Resh Somauroo, and currently the guy in charge of further development and making sure everybody stays consistent is Daniel Lipkowitz.
Coming up with the story for a theme year is as complicated in some ways as designing a new theme, so it's not just one guy. Managers from all different departments go off and sequester themselves for a week or two to develop a new story fully. They have to make sure the story meets all of the departments' requirements, fits into the overall marketing plan, and matches the development of the existing Knights audience.
For instance, we couldn't do a second year of jellybean-colored heroes questing through a straightforward series of linear problem-solving events. That type of story appeals to a very specific children's developmental stage, and the kids who bought into the Knights theme in 2004 aren't in that stage anymore in 2005. So this year they got a story that highlights more complex choices, moral decision-making, and social role-playing of ideas like leadership and sacrifice, which weren't appropriate for 2004's kids' level of play. (And also the jellybean colors got toned down a little.) They still get help with story cues, but now we give examples of a half-dozen possible ways into Vladek's castle, rather than the One Right Way that the kids of a year earlier need.
As for my personal role, I don't have a whole lot of input into those decisions, my job is to take the broad strokes that come out of that meeting and figure out how to turn them into specific events that'll let me communicate the most important story features visually, and in a relatively small number of images. That takes some negotiation with Daniel and Resh to see where there's room to improvise and switch things around without damaging the overall integrity of the story.
Blueandwhite wrote:One other thing (although it may be somewhat of a grey area). KKII has a very unique aesthetic when compared to other LEGO products. Was this unique style something LEGO decided on at the outset, or did it come about gradually?
KKII was always meant to have a very distinctive look. When we were deciding exactly how far-out it was going to be, I was doing architecture concpets for the background world that would have looked ridiculous on even the cheapest pulp sci-fi novel - stuff out of the medieval Jetsons. Eventually we reined everything back in to a point where we could be sure people would at least recognize it as Castle.