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To plan or not to plan, or: some ideas on MOCing

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To plan or not to plan, or: some ideas on MOCing

Postby brody » Mon Jun 12, 2006 9:44 pm

Hi all,

I spent some hours happily working on my new project this weekend, and as I was building I began thinking deep thoughts about Lego. Perhaps it's because I'm "new" to the hobby, or perhaps I just felt the need to be philosophical on a Sunday afternoon, anyway, I decided that there are some definite "design principles" that can be applied specifically to Castle MOCing. Here are my thoughts in rough form: (these ideas could be useful whether you plan your MOCs or build spontaneously.)

1. Find a Source of Inspiration. Building from reference material is perhaps the most effective way of creating an amazing MOC!

2. Conceptualize a Story. Create a story that you want your work to Tell. In the case of a castle MOC this story could include a time or era (indicates technology), setting (indicates topography and landscaping), politics (kingdoms, warfare etc...). Basically, develop a detailed narrative that you can work within; this helps in making creative decisions. Adjust as necessary.

3. Architectural Consistency or Deliberate Inconsistency. Architectural consistency means that the builder should develop an architectural style or theme for his MOC, and then apply it consistently to all of that MOC's elements. Examples of architectural elements that could benefit from a unified style include window treatments, arches and doorways, crenelations, gates, buttresses, roofing etc... Of course, the style that the builder develops will vary from element to element, but the overall effect on this technique is to create harmony so that the MOC looks as if it was carefully planned and constructed by a particular culture, in a particular time and setting. This adds to a MOC's authenticity.

The inverse of the principle of Architectural Consistency is Deliberate Inconsistency. We all know that many of the buildings constructed during the Medieval period were built over many decades. Changes to the original builders plans were often made by subsequent builders. Other changes were made by occupying forces, or because of a shift in the structure's purpose etc... To reflect this idea, the MOC builder can apply deliberate inconsistencies to his work by incorporating architectural styles that are distinctly different from each other into the same MOC. Be careful that this logic does not become justification for sloppy building, however.

4. Human-Almost Imperfect. This principle refers to the idea that as human beings are imperfect, humans also build imperfectly. This principle applies in the main to smaller domestic structures which were built without expert planning, but can also be incorporated effectively into large-scale buildings.

Perhaps the most effective technique here is "offset composition." Most structures consist of interconnected masses and spaces. For example, a simplified inn could be made up of these elements; a common room, some bedrooms, and stables. First the builder decides where to locate the different elements in relationship to each other. We'll compose our inn by putting the common room on the bottom floor with the bedrooms above. The stable will be in the back, attached to the main building. Now we'll humanize or building by "offsetting." We'll move the stables slightly so that they jut out just a bit from behind the main building, and can be seen from the front elevation. This might also create a more interesting roofline. We'll then add an irregular overhang to the second story; with a large overhang on the front of the main building and another, smaller, overhang on one side. The second story is flush with the first story on the back and remaining side. An unexpected jog, an unexpected window, or an imperfect alignment are examples of imperfections that can help create a MOC that is more authentic, and much more engaging or "alive." This method can also counteract the very nature of Lego bricks themselves to be perfectly fitted and modular.

5. Asymmetry and Organic Development. These principles relate to the previous, but are a little more general. First, castles with an asymmetrical design are often more interesting and authentic than designs utilizing perfect symmetry.

The second part, Organic Development, is the idea that, in a large Castle MOC, the center of the MOC was built first and is therefore the "oldest" part of the MOC. The castle then "grew," in an organic way, outwards in all directions (depending, in part, upon topography). As the population expanded the castle also was further developed and added to. Our MOCs can reflect this type of development.

6. Allow for Shelf Time. It is imperative that the builder take a break at some point during the process of constructing his MOC. Step back and critique your work, then leave it alone for a while to allow the MOC to "age." When you are ready, you can return to reevaluate your previous progress and review criticisms with a fresh perspective. This "Shelf Time" period may occur several times before the MOC is completed!

7. Sweat the Details. Decide how to landscape, populate, and "dress" the MOC appropriately. Choosing a setting for the MOC can be helpful in making these decisions. Keep in mind that the architecture will be influenced by the climate, topography, and general setting of the MOC, so having some idea of the setting at the very beginning of construction is important.

8. Develop a Signature Style. A signature style is something that comes with time and experience, when personal conventions have been established.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this very long post. Please let me know what you think! Do these rough principles seem accurate when judged by your own MOCing experience? What's missing? Any input is welcome!

Cheers!
Brody
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Postby E of Alshire » Mon Jun 12, 2006 9:58 pm

Y'know, that'd make a decent article for the main page... All we'd need is Bruce to dig up pictures and examples. :wink:

I really like this. You've highlighted all the important aspects of construction that rally give flavor to an outstanding MOC. However, the signiature style, to me at least, is passive, just an amalgamate of each other point.
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Postby brody » Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:04 am

Glad you liked it.

However, the signiature style, to me at least, is passive, just an amalgamate of each other point.


Yeah, I think you're right. I had a difficult time working that one in, but it seemed like a valid component. Maybe it is simply an amalgamation of some or all of the previous principles. There is one important difference though, which is that the builder has, over time, developed an established palette of personal techniques that he employs to effectively accomplish these principles.

Thanks,
Brody
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Postby Sir Terrance » Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:48 am

Great article, I agree with E of Alshire that it should be on the front page.

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Postby wunztwice » Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:43 am

Definately some great thinking going on here Brody. I pretty much agree with everything you said. This is a great short and concise "tutorial" and has the wording and potential to stick in the minds of the readers.

Good job on this!
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Postby JPinoy » Tue Jun 13, 2006 7:10 am

A long, but awesome post. And I second the idea to make this into an article. Nice work, brody!
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Postby ragnarok » Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:28 pm

Bravo!!!

That's some serious approach towards MOCing and it is easily applied to creating as a general. Great thinking brody. Thanks for sharing your personal feelings!
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Postby Gumby » Tue Jun 13, 2006 7:05 pm

Holy smokes Brody, great post!

I haven't built a large MOC in a LONG time, but that's definitely the approach I will be using when I get a chance. Thanks to you for writing it down!
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Postby brody » Tue Jun 13, 2006 8:53 pm

Thanks for the good feedback. I was actually a little reluctant to submit such a long involved post, and I thought I was maybe just thinking about things that are already general knowledge. However, sometimes it helps to write these things down, and I'm glad it's been helpful.

It looks as though this will be developed into an article. If anyone has any additional tips or "principles" regarding MOCing that I can add, please let me know!

Best,
Brody
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Postby chadzicz » Thu Jun 15, 2006 5:45 am

nice article on how it should be done, thanks brody. 8) on the other hand i think i takes some time for a MOCer-beginner to build MOCs this way. i think one has to grow to this approach through variety of simpler 'ad-hoc' mocs. these really help to 'unleash' one's creativity that is so essential for any good MOC
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Postby brody » Thu Jun 15, 2006 6:31 pm

i think i takes some time for a MOCer-beginner to build MOCs this way.


I agree. Anyone should feel free to incorporate all or none of these ideas into their own work. They are simply what has worked for me, and I hope they will inspire others. i don't think we should ever allow our awesome hobby to become burdened by overanalysis or adherence to rules. Experiment! I think that the true beauty of Lego is the absolute freedom we are allowed in creating whatever we want, in any way we want to do it.

I feel very fortunate that I was able to study art and design at one of the top design schools in the world (Art Center). My own immersion in the world of design has benefited me a lot when it comes to building MOCs and articulating ideas about design. However, by doing so, I don't mean to take the magic and fun out of Lego.

Cheers!
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Postby E of Alshire » Fri Jun 16, 2006 3:52 am

brody wrote:I thought I was maybe just thinking about things that are already general knowledge.


To me, and I'm sure some others, I'm sure most of it was; but I'm constantly amazased at how much I learn from articles like this, or how much easier it makes it to describe to someone else. So, new or not, thanks!
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