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:


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 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.

11 comments on “Lego is communication: summing up

  1. Pingback: Lego is communication | The Brothers Brick | LEGO Blog

  2. Paul Lee

    I enjoyed this series and I do think writing like this belongs on the blog. While I appreciate all the news and featured Mocs, I like the idea of having someplace to carry on a discourse about Legos, and perhaps taking Moc building to a new level.

  3. Leigh Holcombe

    I’ve really enjoyed this series of articles, and I would prefer to see them continued. Perhaps once a week or so, you could do a critical review? Pick an MOC being featured on the blog, and talk about it. Point out how it communicates effectively (or not), how its techniques impose a certain reception, that sort of thing.

    I also think that this series can be extended with discussion of design principles as the toolbox of communication. Contrast, white space, busyness, foreground/background, shape, and even the golden ratio can really effect how a model is perceived. Plus, little lessons in design topics would help all builders.

  4. Fred

    I agree with Paul. Most importantly the message about proper presentation techniques. All too often I notice a wonderful MOC pictured out of focus on Mom’s antique table with the cigarette still burning in the ash trash next to it.

  5. Ted

    I’d have to say I really enjoyed the series but I would really like to see more of this in BrickJournal. I want to see the longer-form serious articles but would rather read them in print where they are targeted at a LEGO-specific audience. Education of non-builders is all well and good but taking our hobby (but not ourselves) more seriously would produce more long-term results.

    Model railroaders don’t try to convince people their hobby is worthwhile. We shouldn’t have to either, but to get there it starts with US, not THEM.

  6. Zepher

    I’d really like some tips on building, and, for one thing, getting people to notice my work. It’s annoying to get my stuff up and never have anyone view/comment on it. I’d also be interested in tips from good builders (ex: Mark Kelso, Keith Goldman, Nannan) Sorta like a Question and Answer thing! To sum up, things I’d like to see in the future:
    1) How to get your moc’s noticed.
    2) General Building Tips (maybe each “Brother” could do one)
    3) Questions and Answers with good builders about peticular builds and builds in general!

  7. Garth Danielson

    I’ve been enjoyin’ this series of articles and would like to see more discussion like this. I prefer this sort of discussion in article format, especially if I’m not writing it, as opposed to a forum where people tend to fire off short talking points or turn to yelling and name calling. Serious or at least semi-serious discussion is great, there are always people who like that sort of thing. Me 1.

    I like to see them articles on websites, where there is a lower cost of production and distribution, plus for me, the added bonus of instant two way communication. Can you hear me now? I don’t think you’d have the impact on paper with a two or three month gap in between parts.

    In my mind I don’t feel that building a LEGO MOC is any different than building any sort of art, and there are plenty of books full of rules and presentation techiques to make things more pleasing or to create the opposite effect. Mosaics are drawings or paintings and vigs are dioramas or statues. People who aren’t into LEGO understand the correlation. Just saying “I like to build statues and not have to paint them” breaks down all sorts of barriers in communication. But even with all that knowledge behind me, I try to break some conventions when I can. It’s not always successful but shape and color have nearly endless combinations, why not try as many as you can.

    I don’t see anything wrong with raising the bar for the hobby, as well as tossin’ in a little fun discussion. It’s all great. More building tips can only be a big help to the person starting out, like me. I know I suck at robot building and I’m an infant when it comes to Technics. I used to throw them in a box and hide that box. Now I have to go on Bricklink to look up some of those parts to even understand what they are. Oh, it does that. Well, I’m using it for a downspout.

    Ted brings up a good point about not trying to convince people that their hobby is worth while. Either people can see the value of the message or they can’t. Time solves many problems. Model Railroading has been around for at least a century, (I’m guessin’ here but don’t think I’m too far off) and people know about it because it’s been around so long. It’s become part of the public conciousness, and people know it’s not too dangerous. Just the expensiveness of it creates a sort of respectability. I alway tell people that LEGO is really expensive.

    I joined Science Fiction fandom in 1970 when it was a spurned reading matter. “You read science fiction? Ohhh.” Yeah, at least three h’s. But, since Star Trek and Star Wars everybody and his brother is a science fiction fan. LEGO is a toddler on that scale, especially if you are just looking at the AFOL community. Have people had weird or negative experiences when they reveal their secret identity. Mostly I have had really great reactions from people when I tell them my hobby is building with LEGO. Especially when I show them something. Actually, I bring things to work and force people to look at them. “I am not goin’ away.” Since I mostly make MOC’s with a bit of a fun message I think they get recieved fairly well. And that really gets back to the message and how readable that message is.

  8. Memory

    Thanks a lot, Linus. Although I’ve only commented a couple of times, I’ve definitely learned something from this series (mostly about how a model can be a message). It would be cool if you did a case study now and then.

  9. Bryan Lindemood

    Yes, I really like this sort of “talk” format once in a while on the Brothers Brick. Keep it going, but don’t forget the heart of what makes me keep coming back to this blog for rest from more wordy websites: the featured MOCs presented as such visual candy. I think this series kept a nice balance. Thanks.

  10. Kevoh

    I would be very interested in posts that aren’t just “hey look at this cool moc by nnenn/legohaulic/moko/olog”

    Instead, how about some meaningful commentary/criticism, or insight into the builder or his process, or how the latest creation compares to his/her previous work.

  11. Gambort

    Kevoh> Problem is that that’s a lot of work for any given MOC post. Perhaps the occasional analysis would be good but I don’t know how many of us really have the tools or vocabulary to do it justice. I know I don’t.

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