About Bohman

Linus Bohman is a university student from Sweden. When he doesn't build with lego he likes to play with his camera.

Posts by Bohman

Jimbo has a rough day

I took some time of time off to finish Jimbo’s rough day:

When the one-eyed snaked attacked, the two friends forgot to check their footing. Jimbo lost an arm and a leg to a mine, and it looked like his buddy Frank was about to lose even more. One could argue that the odds where against them.

“Finally, some action!” Jimbo joyously exclaimed, trying to build a makeshift shelter using his own blown-off leg and hand as a crude tool. He had always been one tough son of a bitch.

See more on either flickr or linusbohman.se.

Lego is communication: summing up

Over the last six weeks, we’ve been on a fun ride. Through a series of posts we’ve been exploring our chosen medium from a communicational point of view. In case you missed it, here are links to the other instalments:

0. Introduction
1. Context: the message
2. Context: the audience
3. Tools: Design & build, with case study #1
3b. Case study #2
3c. Case study #3
4. Tools: Presentation
5. Other
6. Summing up

I’ve argued that all LEGO models can be considered messages (post #1) to an audience (post #2), designed (post #3) and presented (post #4) in a way that enhances or dehances the models’ effect. Deathdog exemplifies this brilliantly in a comment on post #1. His creation was bashed at Classic-Castle. To Deathdog, the people there misinterpreted his model – which really just means that they interpreted it differently than he did. Not wrongly. Time to either a) appeal to a different crowd, or b) create the next model so that they interpret it the same way he does. (The hidden alternative c) “educate” the existing audience is not only rather time consuming, but also ethically dubious.)

Analyzing your own builds like this, and the builds of others, help uncover flaws they might have. But remember, as I wrote in the disclaimer (post #5) – following this “guide” like a mindless drone will only result in good models. To create the great ones you have to add your own kind of magic. I’ve just preached for one way of thinking that could help you hammer out your build better.

It’s a way of thinking professionals have been using for ages – successfully, even - but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

Before I started to actually write this series I sat down and thought about what I wanted to achieve with it all. I divided the readers of this blog into three categories:

  • Active builders
  • “Sleeping” builders
  • The interested public

I assigned each of these groups one core effect I wanted to achieve, and ranked their order of importance. The things I learned from doing this let me decide how to present the thoughts. From least important to most important (you might be surprised):

3. “Sleeping builders”
Sleeping builders are those who might become a LEGO builder, but perhaps don’t realize it yet. I wanted to, with luck, wake some of you up. The Brothers Brick showcases a lot of nice models every week, and that combined with some food for thought can make for an interesting stimuli. I cannot describe the joy I felt when Alan R wrote:

Hey,

I’d just like to thank you for this series, and this blog in general.

From when I was around 5 until about 2 years ago (when I was 14) I played with LEGO non-stop, but then for whatever reason, I fell out of love with it, and took a long hiatus. However, thanks to (for a large part) this blog, I recently restarted my building, and am really happy to have done so (especially with 3 months of summer looming ahead).

I just recently finished an approximately to scale LCVP (WWII Landing craft, think D-Day), in a large part due to this series’ ideas of “message/ audience/ build”

As my audience is mainly me (but showing off to my friends b/c i’m proud of my work), I dunno if I’ll set up a flickr acct / MOCPages acct and share it with the world, but that’s not the point. Thanks in a large part to this blog, and especially this series, I went from vaguely thinking about LEGO once-a-month to actually getting back into the thick of it, and I’m really happy to have done so.

Thanks

Thanks for writing that, Alan. The best of luck to you in your LEGO endeavours. Don’t hesitate to let us know about the things you’ve built in the future, if you feel so inclined.

2. Active builders
Those that are already “in the thick of it” are active builders. I wanted to show you a new way to think about your models, away from all techniques, greebling, SNOT, studlessness, (and SNOTlessness!) and whatnot. I wanted you to see a bigger picture and get you to understand that if you want to, you really can do whatever with the medium.

It is you who have been most active in the discussions, as expected. You’ve questioned me, agreed with me, helped me twist and turn the arguments, and reminded me of things I forgot. In the end you made me think, both as a builder and as a communicator. Just how I like it. Thank you for that. I hope I made you think as well.

1. Interested public
Paradoxically, the people I considered the most important to reach are also the ones most likely to scroll past these posts: the interested public that mainly comes to see the fantastic models featured on TBB. This group constitute the bulk of our readers. What I wanted to show these people was that while LEGO is a toy, it is also a serious medium for expression. Even though most of you in this group don’t read these posts as carefully as the other two groups, just knowing that serious discussion is being held make you perceive LEGO differently – if only at a subconscious level. And nothing says intelligent discussion like lengthy written ramblings.

Now I’d like to your input again. This type of post was a first for The Brothers Brick. If I have my way it was the first of many meta-theoretical posts, but it was also a way for me to establish a framework in which I could post more concrete tips on building, presentation and much more on a regular basis. Tell me: do these kinds of posts belong on this blog? Why? Why not? What would you like to see discussed in the future?

Thank you for reading this far.

LEGO is communication: other

Welcome to the almost final post in the series where we’re looking at LEGO models from a communicational point of view. Start at the introduction and read all of the other posts. It’s fun stuff.

This is going to sound crude to most of you. It’s true though. If you’ve followed this series from the beginning you know that even if you do it consciously or not, your MOCs function like I say they do. They are messages directed towards an audience, designed and presented in a way that either strengthen or weaken the intended impact. That’s all there is to it.

If you always structure your building like I imply you should in this series, you achieve three things:

  1. Good MOCs
  2. Boredom
  3. In the words of Keith Goldman: Boilerplate

“So wait a minute. You tell us to think about things a certain way, and now you’re saying we shouldn’t do that? What gives?”

I said that I was going to teach you how to build great models. And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve put into words and structured up what you probably already sensed, but maybe couldn’t specify. But now that you got this basic knowledge, it’s easier to think about your building and evolve it further.

And that’s what’s really going to make you a better builder.

This is the last “true” part of this series of posts, since the next one will just be a summary of the discussions we’ve had. This post is short, but important. It’s essentially a big disclaimer.

Remember that reasoning on aspects like this series of posts does will get you on your way. But like good things in general you can’t exactly pinpoint what it is that make good LEGO models good. I personally believe it’s magic.

Magic is hard to create, but once you do – man. The feeling is indescribable, just like the results. Magic doesn’t happen when you stick to the conventional middle ground. You have to venture beyond for that, go where others haven’t, try the things others wouldn’t dare to. It increases your odds of failure, but also your odds of success.

LEGO is a creative medium. Structure your thoughts, but be creative.

And that’s the end of this short but important post.

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.

Case study #3: “But I don’t build like you say I should!”

If you’ve been following the series of posts where we’re analyzing LEGO models as communication, chances are you’ve not quite agreed with me – perhaps you don’t recognize your own building style in what I write. That’s to be expected. But today I’m going to show you that regardless if you follow the model I’ve been building up or not (which you most likely don’t), your MOCs can be analyzed with it, which is what the model is meant to do.

The very talented Ralph Savelsberg (who is no stranger to TBB) left the following comment on Tuesday’s case study:

Interesting. I’ve been following these posts for a few weeks now and have thought about a few things. I’m not sure how much of this is applicable to the way I go about building.

I don’t fiddle around with pieces not knowing what to make with them in advance. I may look at a particular new piece and recognise it as something that I can use for one of the many projects that I always have in mind.

I don’t know what message I try to convey with my MOCs. I don’t think I am normally addressing anybody in particular with any of them, except when I build something with a public display in mind or for a competition. I’m mainly enjoying myself. I’ve been building with LEGO since the time I first could put two bricks together and I don’t go about building any differently now that I happen to share pictures of my models with the rest of the world, although I of course do enjoy it when people like my models and incorporate people’s suggestions.

I’m not sure whether it was Peter Gabriel who said that he makes the music that he likes and if other people happen to like it too, that’s a bonus.

Based on this comment, what I know of you and your models and through your interview on Gizmodo, I’d like to try to place your building in the model I’ve been describing. You actually follow it quite clearly – and even pointed it out in your interview quite well. I hope you don’t mind, Ralph. I greatly admire you as a builder.

To refresh our memories: Ralph is most known as a master at building real-world aircraft with great detail. Here’s part of his collection:

Wicked, right?

Here’s what I’ve been saying we all do:

  1. We work in a context. That means we send out a message to an audience. This is the most important thing we can know about our work, as it dictates…
  2. Our design. I argued that shape and colour was two of our most important factors, and that they must correlate to the contextual information we have. All of this tells us…
  3. Which techniques we use.

And that’s the story so far – at least until next week when we’ll look at presentation. More on that on Monday.

  1. Ralph, your message is the easiest thing to decipher. You don’t build vague images from your imagination – you try to create a scale model of an aircraft. This gives you a very clear set of rules to obey. When you say that you don’t build for an audience, I’d disagree. It may feel odd to consider it, but you can be your own audience. That might make the building easier or harder depending on what standards you hold yourself to. A two-year old who builds for himself might be happy to slap two 2×6 plates on the side of a 2×8 brick and call that an airplane, but you obviously wouldn’t settle for that.
  2. Based on this information you create your design. In order to get the shapes proportioned correctly – which is an important requirement to convey your message, and I suspect, to satisfy yourself – you put it on paper. Deciding on shapes and colours is pretty easy since you’re trying to re-visualize something that already exists.
  3. This decides what techniques you use. I know you’ve gotten comments by some that think your models have too many studs showing. Indeed, the prevalent design tendencies in the LEGO community goes towards making LEGO models not look like made by LEGO, however ironic. But you don’t do that because a) you can capture your intended shape and proportions better with a studs-up construction, and b) you, as your primary audience, don’t mind the studs.

By using the model we can get a basic picture of why you built your crafts the way you did. And by using this analysis on one’s own model we can see flaws with a build-in-progress. We all do this. The thing is that most of us do it without knowing so. Our mind is beautiful in the sense that once you put words on an abstract concept it’s easier to think about that concept.

Case study #2: Does technique always come last?

Back in the previous case study, I made the point that techniques always come late in the design process. When you build models to make an impact – as a message – techniques should always be dictated by your overall goal. If you build your model to be very LEGO-like, why should you care to get rid of the studs?

Mainman and Memory cleverly pointed out to me that within our medium, this order can seem paradoxal. Many of us create models “by accident” when we stumble upon a cool piece combination. And I admit: I do so myself.

When I fiddled around with the new speed racer windscreens (image courtesy of Legovaughan), I tried different combinations in order to create an interestingly shaped canopy. I came a long way – I managed to build a structure that kept them mirrored on top of each other, so as to create a convex window. However, the structure was too fragile, and didn’t hold. It broke.

And in the pieces on the table I saw a new shape.

I quickly readjusted the structure I had built, added some new pieces, fiddled a bit more, and wound up with a giant eye. Not knowing what to use it for, I kept it around for a few days. And I had an epiphany when I saw a movie with a very inspiring phrase - and then I instantly knew in what model the eye was meant to be.

Sometimes techniques do comes first. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and think about context later to make sure your techniques fit your goal. If there’s something wrong - adjust one of them to the other.

Lego is communication: design and build

Hey. You’re reading a series of posts where we’re looking at a LEGO model as a message, not just as a pretty sculpture. I’d recommend reading the introduction and the first two parts before diving into this one. It’s kind of important. An apology to all of you who comment – due to a busy real life I seem to be late at responding to you. I do read all of your comments and take them to heart though – look forward to a nice highlighting and summary in the last part of the series.

In the previous two installments we began thinking about 1. What to build, and 2. For whom to build. We concluded that these things are really important – those two factors control how we go about designing our model. Today I promised to finally open our toolbox and discuss the design and build.

Oh? Is it true? After two weeks it’s finally time to learn all of the nifty techniques and secret part combinations to making a model instantly awesome? Right?

Yes and no. Today we’ll do two things:

  1. Pin down how to convey our message (Design)
  2. A case study on technique usage (Build)

There are many ways to design your message, and honestly: for all the focus there is on the technical side of building, parts and techniques are fairly unimportant on the whole. I want to get you thinking about why you might want to use a certain technique, beside it being cool at the moment. That’s why we’ll focus on how to further refine our message, and only do a case study of a model with interesting parts usage. Don’t fret though – in addition to that, I will do one case study every other day until next Monday.

Think of it as a win-win situation: I get to show you when to think about techniques, and you will get to see four different situations that required special skill with the brick. Not bad.

Conveying our message
When trying to pin down how to get our message across, I’d argue that two factors are more important than others: our use of shape and colour. Combined, these two elements will create the foundation of how a model will affect the audience. Shape and colour is for LEGO building what layout and typography is for graphic design, or disposition and style is for writing – it is what leads your audience through your message. It is what makes your model talk. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Yet, interestingly enough and unlike the previously mentioned occupations, we often focus on everything else when viewing a model and only notice these two factors when they are glaringly flawed.

Different colours bring different associations. Black is dark, and oftentimes associated to an abstract evil feeling. Green can be natural, blue can be watery. Bright and scattered colours give models a lighter, less serious tone, whereas controlled, subtle hues tend to lean towards the sterile, corporate and serious look.

Same goes for shapes. Bulging, wavy, irregular patterns tend to give a more organic feel; controlled geometrical patterns are often associated with the industrial and man-made.

My fellow brother Nannan is an expert at playing with some of these contrasts.

If you’ve followed the Brothers Brick you’re no stranger to his Black Fantasy genre. It has exploded in popularity. Many try to take a stab at building the horrid biomechanical creatures he conjures up, but few succeed. It’s hard to pull of a well-constructed Black Fantasy piece. I know, I’ve tried and failed.

Have a look at Nannan’s Charon.

Pitch black as lurking darkness, with evil in its orange eye. Bulging tentacles erupt from the geometrical frame. Scary. Freaky. Utterly brilliant in its shape and (lack of) colour.

But imagine that the Charon wasn’t black. Justin Vaughn, aka Mainman, tried something similar in brown.

A very well built model. Equally organic bulging shapes on a geometrically controlled base. But it’s brown, and not even half as evil as Nannan’s black creation. We enjoy it as a playful take on Black Fantasy, but if we had no knowledge of the overlying theme it would’ve been pretty bland. Maybe we would think it was some kind of space ant.

That’s how easily colour can make or break a concept.

If we want to see different shapes in action we can turn to another of Nannan’s works, the surrealist vignette Cry of Dreams:

Here he lets the organic bulging shapes contrast with the large sterile square blocks. By letting two extremes clash like this both characteristics are enhanced, and the (almost) monochrome setting gives it a dark undertone. Had this scene been placed on circular platforms, or even cloud-shaped ones, we would’ve perceived it quite differently.

Today we have a powerful tool to pre-visualise different colours and shapes on a model. It’s not a bad idea to do like Dennis or Jehkay and use the computer to try new colours and shapes out before actually building them.

Case study #1: techniques should come last
So, if we had been planning and building a model according to this series, here’s what we would’ve done up ’till know:

  1. Determined what we want to build. (Our message.)
  2. Decided who we are going to build for. (Our audience.)
  3. Thought of colours and shapes that best convey 1. for 2. (The design.)

Now is the time to think of techniques – to do the actual build. Do you see how late in the process this part comes in? LEGO pieces and their combinations are merely ways to realize your underlying concept.

Let’s analyze my old friend Ossscar the Serpent. Built three years ago, he is shock-full of parts used in a non-traditional way. What went through my head when I built him? How did I choose the specific parts? Drugs?

Here’s my train of thought, step by step:

  1. Up to that point, I had never built something that was supposed to be organic and wanted to take a stab at it. I chose to build a snake-like creature because, frankly, it seemed to be the easiest thing to do. An easy shape to realize in LEGO, and referencing an animal most of my audience knew meant I had greater artistic freedom.
  2. At the time I built for a very specific audience. I had just happened upon the Classic-Space crowd and really wanted to impress them. Secondarily I built for myself, my girlfriend and the people who came to visit our home – LEGO models make great conversation.
  3. Building something snake-like meant that I had a general shape to follow (long and bendy with head on front). I chose to mainly use the colour green, to further play on the snake/lizard association. Building organic meant trying to steer away from the blocky look.
  4. That meant I had to look for pieces that could convey the shape I was looking for outside the traditional elements. With my limited selection of green pieces, I was drawn towards my box of plants and some Bionicle sets I had picked up. With the pieces in front of me and some jolly experimentation the scaly body was quickly conjured up, as well as the unusual Kraata-jaw.

The rest was just about fleshing out the details. Concept first, technique last.

Next time: getting your model to your audience. It’s time to talk about presentation.

Lego is communication: think about your audience

Hey. You’re reading a series of posts were we’re looking at LEGO models as messages, not just pretty sculptures. I’d recommend reading the introduction and the first part before diving into this one. It’s worth it.

Last time we looked at how the label we give a message affects it. The conclusion? That you put pictures in the minds of your audience already when you say “look at my fantastic alien sculpture!”

Today we’ll peek at how different audiences perceive things differently. After all, knowing what you want to say isn’t enough to be able to say it; you also have to have someone to say it to. And hey, if you do – why not analyze the audience and customize the message so that you’ll make a good impression on them?

I believe that all builders at one point or another must ask themselves for whom they build. Who will see this MOC, and how? Why will they see it? Do I care what they think? What do I have to do to make an impact on them? What kind of people are they?

Designers, writers and communicators world wide define their target groups. This is arguably the most important thing to do before you construct a message. They jot down traits that define their target group – they learn the demographics of that group. Age, sex, education, hair colour, skills, language, dominating hand, married, single, job… anything you can think of are potentially important demographic traits.

Whoah. Easy there, big guy. Too. Much. Information.

Yeah, absolutely. Demographic data is important, but it’s incredibly hard to know which differences that matter. But here’s the good news: you probably already know most of the things you should about your target group. You just have to keep in mind that those are the ones you’re wanting to awe. Or annoy. Or whatever your goal is.

Let’s make an experiment. Have a look at this picture of Peter Reid’s gorgeus LL-142 and write down the five first things that pop in your head. If it takes more than 20 seconds, you’re thinking about it too much.

My thoughts were:

  1. Whoah, neat.
  2. Dig the colour blocking.
  3. Nice greebling.
  4. But it seems he ran out of pirate hooks – he’s missing one on the front.
  5. And the x-pod is integrated pretty well.

I’m a 23 year old male Swede, semi-blond, both parents alive, adult fan of LEGO for six years.

I asked my friend to do the same. Here’s what she got:

  1. Ooh, blue.
  2. And chunky.
  3. It has a lot of dots on it.
  4. Looks like a fish face.
  5. A fish face that’s smiling, even.

She’s a 22 year old female Swede, dark hair, lost her mother when she was eight, likes LEGO but last touched a brick when she was twelve.

Which of the demographic traits I listed best explain our different results? Pretty obvious, isn’t it?

One could make a mind map to properly layout this information, but remembering this second point in case takes you pretty far: different audiences expect and appreciate different things depending on their background. Keep this in mind, use your gut feeling for your target group and do some trial and error, and it shouldn’t be too hard to find out how you should express yourself.

Next Monday we’re finally opening the toolbox. It’s time to look at some of the design and build choices that you can use to get your message across to your audience.

Lego is communication: context

As said in the introduction, we are looking at LEGO models as a communicational message. This means putting MOCs (My Own Creation – LEGO custom models, remember?) on the same level as writing an article in a magazine, talking to Santa Claus, or creating a serious work of art. LEGO is just another medium. But what does that definition bring?

Well, all of these activities are done in a context. They play on a field with a set of obstacles they must overcome, and how well they do that determines if the idea behind the message is successfully delivered or not. Determining which these obstacles are will affect your choice of tools (which we will discuss later in the series).

I’ll divide contextual relations into two parts here: the message (the actual MOC) and the receivers of the message (the audience). Today we’ll focus on the first of the two: the creation.

A friend of mine once told me that “In order to say something, you have to have something to say”. It’s one of those phrases that are instantly quotable, and there’s actually much wisdom in this: you cannot express your thoughts if you do not know what you think. It’s highly likely that the Arvo brothers made pretty good research before building that awesome Alien sculpture.

There are conventions here, which we’ll illustrate with a farfetched scenario. Imagine that the Arvos didn’t create this sculpture. Imagine that they named their headphones “H.R. Giger’s Alien” (which they absolutely could, in theory). Would it be a smart move?

Not really, no.

While it would’ve provoked a reaction, the sculpture wouldn’t make a lasting impression on us, the audience. It would’ve clashed with the general consensus too much. If we saw the headphones (and assuming we had seen the movie as well), we simply wouldn’t agree that the Alien looked like that: we wouldn’t take it to heart because the Arvos strayed too far from our perception of the real deal. (And considering how geeky many of us in the community are, that would’ve been instant legocide. Assuming the Arvos care about that sort of stuff.)

It’s one of those tricky things to balance: artistic vision versus general consensus. After all, a MOC can in theory look like whatever and be named whatever, but if one labels a model as an ‘old-school pirate ship’, the viewers will expect it to be made of wood, sail on waters and be commanded by bearded drunk men who say “Yarrr”. If the old-school pirate ship is tall and square with cubes of warm ice in it, consider labelling it ‘building’. Same goes for exploring steampunk or how to best build a certain loco.

Point in case: know that you’re starting to communicate already when you decide what to build. People like labels, it lets them understand what is going on.

Next week we’ll have a look at the people you want to talk to – the audience.

Lego is communication

I’ll admit it: like Tyler, I’m a legoholic. Few things make my stomach tickle more than seeing a good custom LEGO model, or MOC (standing for My Own Creation), as those of us in the hobby call it. But really, what is it that makes a good MOC good? Is there a way to find that out?

Yes there is. And I’m going to teach you how to be a LEGO building God. Or at least how to suck just a wee bit less.

I know what you’re thinking: “Linus, come on! Good is in the eye of the beholder!” and “Good is dependant on which building style is ‘in’ at the moment!”. And you know, I agree. But if we stop looking at MOCs as pretty sculptures and look at them from a communicational point of view – analyze them as a message from an author to a viewer – we can actually see pretty interesting things. We won’t understand per se why Nannan’s wicked Black Fantasies are so fun to look at, or why Michael Jasper’s furniture is so fascinating, but we can structure our thoughts regarding them a bit better – and in the end, begin to understand why they make an impact on us.

And so, in a series of six posts starting with the next one, I’ll be outlining one way to look at how a LEGO message is constructed. I’ll start with the broader perspective, discussing contextual relations (don’t worry, it’s not as boring as it sounds) and then work my way down to the design & build, presentation, and other factors. I’ll publish the new instalment every Monday.

My goal with this series is to get you thinking. During these six weeks I hope you’ll chime in with objections, thoughts and examples in the comments section, and if that’s the case the sixth and last post will contain a summary of our discussion, links to references and other goodies on the subject. Could be fun, yeah?

Since we’re heading deeper into the serious LEGO world in these posts, it’s inevitable that I’ll use some of the lingo the LEGO community has created. I will explain the stranger words as they come up, but don’t be afraid to ask about a term you don’t understand or let me know when I do it too much. All of them are in this LEGO acronym guide too if worst comes to worst, but as said, let me know.

All of these posts are mainly based on my own experience and knowledge, of which you can read more on my about page. This type of series is also a first for the Brothers Brick, so don’t be afraid to voice your opinion about that too. And while we’re at it, feel free to give me a holla’ regarding grammer and speling too.

Phew, I think that’s all of it.

Now, let’s get to it, shall we? Tomorrow we’ll start with the the most important part of it all: the context. Dun-dun-duuuun.

This post is part in a series of six discussing LEGO models from a communicational point of view, updated every Monday. Here are the other instalments:

0. Introduction
1. Context: the message
2. Context: the audience
3. Tools: Design & build, with case study #1
3b. Case study #2
3c. Case study #3
4. Tools: Presentation
5. Other
6. Summing up