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How LEGO became even more awesome

How LEGO became even more awesome

They're the colourful building blocks of every childhood, but did you know you can be a master builder and pitch your set ideas to LEGO?

How LEGO became even more awesome

On 1 November, LEGO released its Women of NASA LEGO set, which almost immediately rose to the top of Amazon’s best selling toys list.

Clearly, a lot of people were very excited about an all-female LEGO set celebrating some of the too-often unsung heroes of the American space programme.

Equally exciting, perhaps, is how the set came to be. The set was the brainchild of Maia Weinstock, an American science and technology writer who submitted her design to LEGO Ideas.

Women of NASA is the newest box set to come from the LEGO Ideas programme. Credit: LEGO Ideas View Larger
Image|LEGO Ideas
Women of NASA is the newest box set to come from the LEGO Ideas programme
Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison and Nancy G. Roman are the four characters included in the Women of NASA set. Credit: LEGO Ideas View Larger
Image|LEGO Ideas
Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison and Nancy G. Roman are the four characters included in the Women of NASA set

Design your dream LEGO

Since 2008, LEGO has been accepting set ideas from the public through the LEGO Ideas programme. Formerly known as Cuusoo, LEGO Ideas has seen the creation of 19 sets created by the public, including Women of NASA.

Other sets include the DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the FutureNASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover and another all-female set of badass lady scientists called Research Institute (which I love even more for its name—with no qualifier that it’s all women, because of course research institutes can be all women).

The DeLorean Time Machine set comes with Marty McFly and Doc Brown. Credit: LEGO Ideas View Larger
Image|LEGO Ideas
The DeLorean Time Machine set comes with Marty McFly and Doc Brown
The LEGO® NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover. Credit: LEGO Ideas View Larger
Image|LEGO Ideas
The LEGO® NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover
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Image|LEGO Ideas
The Research Institute set has scenes from three professions in the natural sciences including palaeontology, astronomy and chemistry

There’s also the LEGO Minecraft Micro World Forest set—which was not only one of the first sets designed through this process but went on to spawn a whole series of Minecraft-themed sets. It all does my head in a bit—digital LEGO becoming real through actual physical LEGO!

And may the best set win

The process for turning your idea into a real-life LEGO set is similar to the crowdfunding or crowdsourcing model. First, the creator must make a prototype set. The creator then submits photos of the set to the LEGO Ideas website to gain support from the community. The set must garner 10,000 votes to go on to the review stage.

Once a proposed set reaches the review stage, it must meet a variety of requirements before it can go into production. These have changed over the years but involve obvious things for kids’ toys, such as no sex, drugs or alcohol (but rock and roll seems to be OK).

The requirements also cover some less obvious things, such as not using intellectual property owned by rival toy manufacturers. This requirement was what saw the rejection of the My Little Pony set, as the IP was owned by Hasbro.

If a set goes into production, the creator receives 1% royalty of the set’s net sales.

LEGO from down under

An Australian who has successfully gone through this process is Brent Waller, creator of the Ghostbusters Ecto-1 Set. Based out of Brisbane, Brent runs Waller Customs, which creates custom LEGO mini figures, including a LEGO Mulder and Scully (that I totally didn’t just go and order in the process of writing this article).

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Image|Lego Ideas
The Ghostbusters™ Ecto-1 car LEGO set was selected by the public for production and designed by Australian Brent Waller

I asked Brent what it was like seeing his set go into production. “It was literally a childhood dream come true,” he told me. “Back in the 80s, as a child, it was my dream job to be a LEGO designer. Though that never happened, I helped design a set for one of my favourite films and it led to the chance to work on even more things within the world of LEGO.”

Now that you know that you too can be a LEGO designer, what are you going to create?

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