Lego is communication: Presentation

This is the fourth post in a series of six where we’re looking at LEGO models through a communicational point of view. Feel free to read the introduction, first, second and third post to get you up to par before diving into this one – it’ll help. Also, I’m sorry for skipping the promised case study yesterday. I caught the flue and didn’t have much energy to write. But I wouldn’t miss this post for the world – this is the good stuff!

After looking at design and build last Monday, it’s time to present your creation to your target audience. Ideally, you should adjust your presentation to further strengthen your build (or adjust your build to strengthen your presentation, depending on what you’re out to do). We’re going to exemplify how presentation affects your message by looking at how it’s done online, but a lot of it is applicable to live presentation as well.

When you present your model, you can do three things:

  1. Dehance your model
  2. Enhance your model
  3. Neither

Obviously, you want do number two. Different groups have different guidelines, so as we said before: make sure you say what you intend to in a way your audience accept.

I’m mainly a space builder. When I took my first stumbling steps online, LUGNET had just started to break down, and it wasn’t long before Classic-Space was founded. The site has been around for a few years now, and is starting to get a set of informal rules on how a model should be presented there.

Let’s have a look at those who dwell there and the informal guidelines on that site as a case study.

  • For starters, the site is all about space and science fiction. Trains and castles shouldn’t expect to get a whole lot of replies.
  • Many people there are adults, or in their late teens. A grown up behaviour is expected.
  • The site is very building oriented. Interesting custom models is a high priority.
  • That also means “furthering the medium” – interesting building techniques, creative shapes and colouring – is important…
  • … as well as individuality.
  • Science fiction leaves a lot of room to disregard realism. So what if the engine is too small? If it looks cool, you’re on.
  • Building focused means little space to tell everyone about your personal universe in a long back story…
  • … and means you should put up clear pictures that shows your model well from plenty of angles.

So, to dehance your model on Classic-Space, you would write a five-page long back story with lots of details on the fictional technical construction of your small generic space fighter. It probably belongs to some obscure faction you made up (that you’re trying to get everyone to build in), and uses pre-molded guns on a studs up construction. Your pictures would be taken with a cellphone or a webcam, have a lot of clutter in the background, be poorly lit and out of focus. Oh, and it’d be your first time posting there too, and you would be acting like you’re the end-all answer to LEGO building because your mother said you were sooo good.

If you want to enhance your model on Classic-Space, do the opposite. That doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success, but it places your message in a much better position to make an impact on the crowd there.

Do a separate analysis on your target audience.

Taking pictures of your models has almost become an art in itself in the LEGO community. It’s pretty obvious how to dehance a model – said blurry, out of focus and poorly lit shots are sadly too common. Here’s a random picture from MOCpages that tells us nothing:

This model seems like a start. A more skilled builder could’ve at least offered advice on how to improve it - but when we see nothing, we can do nothing.

Neutral pictures would be those that show your model well, on a non-distracting background. Have a look at Don Wilson’s (ThePaleMan’s) Thundertank:

Great photos help convey the feeling of your model. Mark Kelso’s recent piece Apocalypsis: A journey inward takes model presentation to a whole new level:

Here the actual build, though stunning on its own, is nigh secondary to the presentation.  I only wish that he had created a custom website for it rather han putting it up on MOCpages. Too much distracting clutter there.

To see more cases where presentation influence the build, comparing the Brick Testament to “ordinary” castle customs (these by Aaron Andrews, aka DarkSpawn) will yield interesting things. Note how construction suddenly become a lot less important and carefully planned scenes matter more.

If you’re going to present your model live, you have basically the same things to think about as when presenting online: How do I best convey my built message to my audience? Except now you can consider another factor: interactivity. Should your audience be allowed to touch your model or not? That might help you connect with the audience, and lets them see play factors. No playing can create a distance. Think how you best support your model’s purpose: if you consider it a toy and built it for your kids, then maybe it’s a good idea to somehow enable people to play with it. If you want it to be considered art or a sculpture you should probably put it behind a fence.

And that concludes the bulk of this series. Next Monday we will look at a few other factors that can affect how your build is perceived by your audience before summing up what we’ve learnt.

12 comments on “Lego is communication: Presentation

  1. Pingback: LEGO Blog: The Brothers Brick » Blog Archive » Lego is communication: design and build

  2. Lukas

    You said nothing of schematics that so many people love! It gives visual interest that reflects the model, and, while not distracting from the model, gives some information about it’s ‘backstory.’

  3. David

    Apocalypsis: A Journey Inward reminds me of Star Trek 2 the Wrath of…

    KKKHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!

    That’s a good thing. :)

  4. Nannan

    I live by the rule that presentation is half the success of the MOC. A professional looking photograph can make a crappy MOC appear as if done by expert hands, while below neutral to poor photography on a great MOC won’t even draw peoples’ attention. I have come to the conclusion throughout the years that white background photos are the most attractive ones, having been drawn in awe to those photos by others before I learned the technique myself.

    The paradox I see with this articles is that many people who read it may already do better presentation, and people who don’t read it can be those like the builder of the poorly presented creation that you showed. In short, not everyone’s a reader, they just keep what they’re doing while being oblivious to the resources and advices that are around. But this is may be natural for beginning builders.

  5. Yasim

    Hi, We as LEGO subdistributor in Medan, Indonesia is doing a charity event calls “LEGO Milipede – Charity Fund Raiser”

    We are collecting fund for YAYASAN ABDI KASIH (YADIKA), a non-profit organization that is running a school and shelter for mentally challenged children suffering from autism and down-syndrome.

    We are hoping that you can give a link to our side at legomilipede.blogspot.com and help spread the news.

    Any donations is appreciated. Update on event and amount of donation collected will be posted daily once the event started.

    Activities on event will be posted daily.

    Thank you for your assistance

  6. Bohman Post author

    Lukas: Yup, schematics would definitely go under the enhance-category for most groups. Thanks for reminding me about those.

    Nannan: That’s an interesting paradox I hadn’t really considered, but it’s true. I suppose it’s all a matter of making people aware. If you make the thought process available to many people, then the awareness of it will spread consciously or subconciously. (“Why should I present it like that?” “Well, I read it somewhere, but it’s better now, right?”) Plus, if it’s available, people have somewhere to point those asking questions instead of having to explain over… and over… and over… again.

    I considered making a note on using completely white backgrounds, as I think they’re something of a special case. Sometimes they’re in the enhance-category – like when you show your artwork. Sometimes they’re actually in the neutral category, like when you show a spaceship.

    Compare your pictures of Contortion to your pictures of Guilty Light: the white background is enhancing your model on the first. Creating something surreal usually means letting the audience fill in the gaps themselves, and as such a white non-descript background is perfect.

    A spaceship is placed in a context that is generally homogenic for most audiences, which enables you to push your message further without losing your viewers. You do so yourself with the photoshop-job on one of the pictures. That picture enhances the feeling of a spaceship you’re trying to convey, while the white background on the rest of the pictures merely lets us look at the model as easy as possible.

  7. Littlebrick

    “Your pictures would be taken with a cellphone or a webcam, have a lot of clutter in the background, be poorly lit and out of focus.”

    Not necessarily. Most brickfilms are made with webcams, and they are not out of focus and poorly lit. The good ones, anyway. I use a Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000, and I’m only upgrading to the 9000 for the sake of more pixels, and the remote-focus feature. The 9000 also sounds like a good webcam, and from what I’ve seen, it is.

    With a webcam, you might have to work a little longer on the lighting, but it’s possible. So I guess if you didn’t have a digital camera lying around, certain webcams could be good substitutes.

  8. Bruce n h

    Hey,

    I’ve got a post on CC that looks at how presentation can help or hurt a MOC. Another thought is that the mode of presentation can affect how you build. If you are building only for the camera, as in illustrating a story, you may make something that only looks good from one angle. If you’re going to display it publicly, you want people to be able to walk around all sides. Building interiors might be completely superfluous in a train layout where viewers are going to stand behind a rope and look but not touch, but if a model is for playing, you’ll want it to open up somehow so you can access the inside, add furniture, etc.

  9. Kevoh

    I’ll echo Bruce, presentation isn’t just something that comes after the design, it can also be part of the design.

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