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.

23 comments on “Lego is communication: think about your audience

  1. Memory

    Very effective post, Linus. In answer to one of the questions, I think that just about everybody in these online communities cares what other people think. It’s a time-consuming process to put pictures of a model on the internet. If someone said they didn’t care about the audiences opinions, they’re just excusing themselves from taking any criticisms.


  2. James

    I’m not sure if this was meant as a joke or not, but I found it pretty funny. Heck, I got a better laugh out of this then what went on here April 1st! Know your audience? That is what bloggers say when talking about making money online! This, in my humble opinion, is taking presentation of MOCs way too far.

  3. Morgan19

    I’m curious… What do you think is “taking it too far” about it? Specifics?


  4. James

    Morgan, when you start talking about demographics and comparing the hobby to professions, that is what I think is taking it too far. It is very well written, but from my point of view its over the top.

  5. Josh

    James, I have to disagree with you. Sure, knowing your audience is a common marketing tool, but that is because it works.

    As you are aware, the Lego community is extremely diverse. There is a huge difference in culture between the various forums, blogs, themes, etc. I think you have to think about your intended audience when you build and post. For example, I have built a number of creations that were intended for a specific group of people on a specific forum. While those were very well received, the same thing would have flopped on a forum that didn’t understand the intricacies of it.

  6. Brad

    I think I can understand how this might look like a joke or seem over-the-top. I’m willing to give it time to see how this comes full circle to constructing MOCs. So far, this seems to be more about communication than about LEGO, but I think that is the point (and in the first post, Linus indicated he would start broadly). However, the ‘message’ and the ‘audience’ are part of taking a piece of work seriously–even if the work is not itself very serious.

    Before I finished reading his post, I thought Linus was going to comment on the LL-142’s relation to Classic Space. After all, if your intended audience includes persons who aren’t familiar with LEGO history, the homages are lost (or at least not recognized, which is the same thing when talking about communication). Part of this spaceship makes sense because it connects to a building theme that many LEGO Space builders either know or remember.

    And I’m really impressed that Linus noticed a missing pirate hook in the first 20 seconds of looking at it!

  7. Josh

    Brad – You made the point much better than I did. The LL-142 is a great example. I’m sure Linus chose it for that reason, though he never says so. It didn’t occur to me, because I am primarily a Castle guy, though I am aware of the Classic Space connection. If the LL-142 was posted on Classic-Castle or BZPower, I am sure it would not have received as much attention as on Classic-Space, simply because the audience is not as tuned in to its significance.

  8. Nannan

    This is an important point to bring up. Audience indeed matters. While those with knowledge of lego can definitely have a different appreciation of creations, there are distinguishable differences within lego fans themselves. For example, sci-fi is obviously a more popular theme than town, and thus more would be interested in seeing a well built spaceship than a good city building, even though both can demonstrate equal creativity and mastery of the brick.

  9. Sibley

    I believe that all builders, perhaps at some unconscious level, build to impress a particular audience. I recently became aware of this in my own builds and created a MOC with the sole intention of being featured on TBB (Successfully, of course) :D

  10. Lukas

    That last example was really great. My first five:

    Nice Xpod
    Pirate Hooks
    Interesting cockpit

  11. Dez

    Mine were:
    It’s coming right at me!
    Classic Spaceness.
    Nice use of the X-Pod
    I see a face!
    The greebling is spot on.

  12. Memory

    James, I find that you thought this a joke to itself be funny. Swing a new CV joint design by C-C, and let me know how excited they get.

  13. Rollen

    My only posted MOC so far (with a few different runs through it) is a stage built to approximate a local high school’s theatre. Since it was built to honor a version of “Romeo and Juliet” done there, I did up a few different scenes on it (and a series for the first scene). I then followed that up with the Banquo’s ghost scene for “Macbeth,” since I was teaching that play to one of my classes.

    I certainly thought of demographics for this, but that was second. First and foremost was personal fun, followed by attention to detail so that it would be the best possible presentation of the space. There were places were I’d have liked to have made it tighter or tidier (or to have gotten a 64×64 base for the audience), but I was content with the space since it would mostly be macro photo fodder. I did re-work the characters for the combat competition on classic-castle (since the set had never been used for any other competitions), but as I looked over the other entries I was far more aware of the different levels of attention that different viewers expect. What was impressive for students newly-entering their “dark ages” (mine started in my teens, after all) was hardly noteworthy for ALEs.

    But – it told the story well enough, and I had fun with it. And it certainly has fed the fire. I wasn’t looking for comments for it when I put it together, but now that I’ve built it and discovered the online Lego community, I’m trying to envision a fun and comment-worthy project for summer… once I decide what genre to build in. (Even genre is a key bit of “demographic” information.)

  14. thwaak

    If I may be absolutely shallow for a moment, most of the time now, I
    I absolutely get it, Linus. The audience I build for is Builder’s Lounge and a few other non-members I highly respect too. Sure, I build primarily for fun, but if I can get those select people to comment on something I did, I know I have achieved something great. There are a lot of things I build that I don’t even bother posting because I do not feel they are up to the same quality as everyone else I deem to be a great builder.

    Yeah, I know that’s shallow to judge yourself based on others perceptions, but I wouldn’t go hanging my fingerpaintings in the Louvre either.

  15. Tim David

    Maybe thats what I’m doing wrong (apart from not building at all) I do build to a specific audience, but the audience with the requisite knowledge to really appreciate my stuff consists me roughly one (me)

  16. Didier Enjary


    “way too far” , “over the top”.

    That’s personal and subjective appreciation – and I respect that.

    But when you realize that people spend thousands of dollars/euros in L. parts and sets, that some people make their BL store their full time job or that some people spend hours of their time into building…

    yes that’s serious stuff.

  17. Bruce n h

    Mmmmm, fish.

    When I look at this MOC (and all of Peter’s related work), I immediately think “classic space” updated with modern building techniques. Since I’m 39, I’m perfectly in the demographic where classic space takes me right back to my childhood, since I was a big LEGO fan as these sets were coming out.

    On the whole MOCs as communication theme of your series, Linus, this is what I always try to emphasize with vignettes. A good vig should tell a story, whereas a bad vig is just a little MOC on an 8×8 base.

    Rollen, is your Shakespeare stage MOC online?


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  21. TaltosVT

    “For example, sci-fi is obviously a more popular theme than town, and thus more would be interested in seeing a well built spaceship than a good city building, even though both can demonstrate equal creativity and mastery of the brick.”

    I thought that was an interesting comment, as it still depends on the audience you’re communicating to. At a train show, my guess is that more people would be interested in a well built building than a spaceship, so, in that case, it could be argued that town is more popular than space. It all depends on context and perception.

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