Working as a LEGO Designer — the Mark Stafford interview [Part 2]

In part 1 of our interview with Mark Stafford, we talked with Mark (Nabii) about how he became a LEGO Designer. In part 2, we’ll talk to him about his work today.

The Brothers Brick: What sets have you made?

Mark Stafford: I’ve been model designer for Exo-Force 8115 Dark Panther, 8118 Hybrid Rescue Tank and the missing number 8116 (this robot’s-mecha was pulled from the line very late in the process).

Then Agents 8632 Swamp Raid, 8630 Gold Hunt, and 8635 Mobile Command Centre. A Mars Mission set: 7648 MT201 Ultra Drill Walker. Power Miners 8957 Mine Mech and 8961 Crystal Sweeper. Later in 2009 I have another Power Miners model and three of the new space line [!] sets, and I’m already working on 4 sets for the first half of 2010!

TBB: What themes have you worked on? And which would you like to work on?

Mark: I started at LEGO on a theme that never made it through development, then went to Mars Mission for a few months, where none of my models made it into sets. Then Exo-Force, Agents, Mars Mission, Power Miners, the new space theme, along the way contributed sketch models to Castle, Batman, City and currently — I can’t say… but it’s exciting!

I like working on any Sci-Fi theme and Space is my favourite, but I like to change it up and don’t want to get bored, so if something new comes along I’ll complain like a wuss for a bit then knuckle down to getting the job done well.

TBB: How big a change was it to go from a hobby with limited restrictions to a job with many restrictions on your designs? Did you ever find it frustrating?

Mark: It’s a challenge, no doubt about it, the biggest adjustment is the obvious one of piece count/price.

We have to build to a price, we do this by making sure the cost of the parts does not exceed the price limit we’re given for that model and the internal price of parts is not always obviously logical either.

Technic Axle 4For example (and I don’t think this will help our competitors), internally a 4 stud long cross axle costs more than a 5 or 6 stud long one. This really bugged me for ages and I asked our Project Supporter to investigate why.

It took a long time to get an answer but it turns out the mould for the 4 long axles is an older one and every time it cycles it only produces half the amount as the 5, 6 or 8 long cross axles’ moulds. The machine has to run for longer, be monitored more and therefore it makes it twice as expense to make the part, hence the apparent discrepancy in the internal price. And every single part, all 6000+ of them have similar considerations, so getting a model to price can be interesting sometimes!

The most frustrating period was the first six months, I then began to accept why LEGO models are built the way they are, rather than the way fan MOCs are. I still have to keep reminding myself that if the model can’t be built from instructions by a seven year old and played with by his/her friends (who did not build it) without breaking too much, then I’m not doing my job!

TBB: I remember that you often built your personal models as toys as well as standalone models (the Big Boys Toys springs to mind). Do you think this helped you make the adjustment?

Mark: Definitely. I only began to move into a more AFOL style of intricate SNOT building in the last year or so before I was hired and my building style was still a very studs up ‘LEGO’ way of building, plus even as a fan I was building with kids in mind!

Big Boys ToysMy favourite fan event is LEGOWorld in The Netherlands, because every day for six days they have 10,000 visitors and more than half are kids, from the first year I attended I always tried to build models that would make these kid visitors amazed, do something fun (like the Big Boys Toys) and illicit a round of applause (to the annoyance of neighbouring AFOLs).

I wanted to make models that would inspire and make kids happy, and now that’s my job as a toy maker!

In part 3, we’ll talk to Mark about some of the differences between building as an average LEGO fan and designing sets for LEGO.

7 comments on “Working as a LEGO Designer — the Mark Stafford interview [Part 2]

  1. Pingback: From LEGO fan to LEGO set designer — the Mark Stafford interview [Part 1] | The Brothers Brick | LEGO Blog

  2. Pingback: LEGO fan vs. LEGO Designer — the Mark Stafford interview [Part 3] | The Brothers Brick | LEGO Blog

  3. David4

    Space Police comes out in the summer, a picture si already out.

    I loved the 2008 Exo-force sets, too bad LEGO ditched them because I never got any of them.

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  5. Pingback: Entrevue avec Mark Stafford disponible en français | The Brothers Brick | LEGO Blog

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