The 28th of January marks the birthday of LEGO — the day when various designs of the brick were submitted to the Patent and Trademark office, and celebrated today as International LEGO Day. The story of the LEGO brick has been told many a time, often glossed over and missing the exact point of discovery. It was only on July 8th, 2020 on Godtfred Kirk Christiansen’s birthday that we finally got some insight into how it all came together. An article was written by Mads Klougart Jakobsen, LEGO’s Manager, Internal Communications, which was only circulated internally for LEGO employees, but was eventually shared with the public LEGO fan community.
Even before I became a UX designer, I’ve always been fascinated by the user interfaces designed for television and motion pictures. Compare the chunky, muted panels in the original Star Trek show with the sleek curves and touch screens of The Next Generation, and you realize that someone, probably an entire team of people, was responsible for designing every button and screen display blinking away in the background.
George Cave, an interaction technologist and design engineer, has written a very insightful article on the history of UI design in LEGO control panels.
Movies like Star Wars and Alien, restricted by available technologies and the capabilities of “modern” screens and monitors, did a pretty amazing job of bringing pivotal scenes to life, like the simple lines of Luke’s targeting computer in the trench run, and the giant display at the center of the Rebels command center, which showed in no small way, just how close they came to total annihilation.
When it comes to LEGO control panels, the small space creates an even bigger challenge for UX designers, who use design principles like color, proximity, and size to create subtle relationships between physical controls like dials, buttons, and switches, and the visual display of information those physical controls affect.