Bricks World Storemaster interviews the Design Director for LEGO City, Ricco Krog. Here's what he has to say about the inspiration and challenges of being a LEGO Designer. (December 2013)
Q) What is your role at The LEGO Group and how long have you worked there?
A) I’m the Design Director for LEGO® City, leading a team of 9 LEGO® designers. We are the ones coming up with the ideas for the different themes and models that end up in the different LEGO® City sets.
It’s my responsibility to lead and inspire the team to be innovative and try out new ideas, in the end I’m also the one deciding which models end up as sets in the stores.
I’ve been with the LEGO® Group for 17 years, all the years as a designer, working on everything from LEGO® Duplo to LEGO® Star Wars.
Q) What is the best thing about your job?
A) The smile on a child’s face when she or he opens a LEGO® set, seeing what a child’s imagination can get out of a pile of LEGO® bricks. Those two things are by far the best things about my job. Knowing that we make a difference.
Secondly it’s very important for me, that there are not two days that are the same, I don’t think there are many other design jobs where you can work on a space ship Monday and a pirate ship by Friday. This variety of different tasks and challenges is very important for how I get motivated.
Thirdly, working in an extremely creative environment with colleagues from all over the world means a lot to me as well
Q) When did you first realise that you wanted to become a LEGO designer?
A) I think I had that dream already as a small boy, just like many other girls and boys around the world. I properly left or parked the dream as I grew up and had to decide on an education. About half a year after graduating as a Mechanical Fitter I saw a job ad from LEGO®, looking for a designer with my background. That immediately reignited the dream , I sent in an application and got the job :-)
Q) Where do you and your team get the inspiration for your City themes?
A) Being a product line that takes its base in realism, we very often get inspired by what we see on the way to work or when travelling.
It can be a big truck or a plane in the airport that sparks an idea.
We also try to visit and get inspiration from real life places like police and fire stations or airports.
The whole design team also spend a lot of time brainstorming on new ideas and themes, drawing and finding pictures.
Q) Which was your most challenging City set in 2013 and why?
A) The most challenging LEGO® City set for 2013, was the 60014 Coast Guard Patrol boat. Because the boat floats, there are a lot of things to take into consideration.
First of all there is a limit to how many bricks can be built on before the boat no longer floats. Secondly, everything has to be in the right place in order to keep balance in the boat, if we built too much on one side, the boat would roll over.
This means a lot of building and testing before we are satisfied with how the design looks and at the same time the functionality working the way it should.
Q) Are there any plans to have a dedicated Minifig character in City? Say Mayor?
A) No, we do not have any plans to do a dedicated character in LEGO® City that will continue year after year.
Q) We are sorry to say that a City Minifigure has yet to win the Minifig of the Month award at Bricks World. We’d like to set you and your team this challenge. Is 2014 going to be the year?
A) That is definitely a challenge that I will pass on to our graphic designers, I hope that everybody else will be as enthusiastic about the 2014 line up as I am, and that 2014 will be the year we make it onto that list. Challenge accepted. :-)
Q) Prior to City you were involved in Technic , which is quite a contrast to City. What did you learn from your time working with Technic that you have applied to your current role?
A) It’s correct that before LEGO® City I was in LEGO® Technic. I had exactly the same role in LEGO® Technic as I have today in LEGO® City.
During my time there I learned a lot about running a design team and working with all the different stakeholders that are involved in the LEGO® development process. All things that I have applied in my new role in LEG0® City
I was leading the design team in LEGO® Technic for 4 Years, before moving to new challenges in LEGO® City
Q) Which Technics set were you most proud of and why?
A) Both the 8043 Motorized Excavator and the 9398 4x4 Crawler are models that I’m very proud of. Both represent milestones in the way we developed, designed and used technology in the models.
For the Excavator we wanted to exceed the motorized bulldozer from 2005, the big challenge was to control 6 functions with only 4 motors. It was a big milestone for us when we came up with the gear switching mechanism.
For the 4x4 Crawler we had to develop a brand new servo and motor, and at the same time build and develop a strong enough model.
For me that’s the two models that I’m most proud of, but all the models that I was parts of, will always have a special place in my heart
Q) Any advice you can give any young aspiring LEGO designers?
Never give up, follow your dreams. Stay creative also when life demands other things of you.
A) If your dream is in design, then pursue a design education. Get a degree in car or industrial design.
Never stop building with your LEGO®, practise is everything. :-)
Q) And finally, the most important question of all. What is your favourite LEGO brick and why?
A) That’s a hard one to answer, there are so many great bricks to choose from. I think I’m torn between a regular 2x4 brick and the Minifigure. Without the 2x4 brick, there would be no system as the whole LEGO® system is based on that one.
On the other hand, without the Minifigures, we wouldn’t be able to tell so many stories and trigger the kids imagination as we do in many of our themes.
In the end it has to be the 2x4 brick I guess, as that’s the one that made it all possible.
Stay Creative :-)