Interview with Creator Expert designers Morten and Jamie

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View image at flickr

LEGO offers a broad range of themes in an effort to appeal to almost everyone but Creator Expert stands out as the most universally popular, doubtless due to the vast array of subjects covered and to the exceptional quality of the designs. 10258 London Bus is the latest addition to the line and was designed by Morten Graff-Wang with support from the Creator Expert design manager, Jamie Berard.

Brickset was kindly invited to interview both Morten and Jamie about the creation of 10258 London Bus as well as their wider experiences within the Creator Expert design team. You can read our discussion after the break...

Brickset: How did you each come to join The LEGO Group and what themes have you been involved with since joining?

Jamie: I'm the design manager for the Creator Expert and the LEGO Architecture groups but I started as a fan before coming into the company eleven and a half years ago and developing my design skills since then to be where I am today. I was first assigned to the Creator 3-in-1 team, working on 4953 Fast Flyers first and then 10182 Cafe Corner. Over the years I have also assisted during the early days of LEGO Friends and been loaned out to a couple of other themes but my main focus has definitely been Creator Expert.

Morten: I started in 2006 and was first involved in Bricks and More, now known as Classic, which is a really good place to begin a career within LEGO as you are designing for very young children. Next I moved to Creator because I wanted to build more detailed models and use the full range of parts. I stayed there for four years before being asked to contribute to LEGO Minecraft which was a brand new theme at the time and to Disney Princess. Now I am back with Creator and was tasked with creating this Expert set, 10258 London Bus, which was very exciting.

Morten, I was interested to see when looking at your BrickList that this is your first Creator Expert set. What challenges did this present in relation to the Creator 3-in-1 range?

Morten: You can take certain liberties when designing a model recommended for those over the age of sixteen which you cannot in other themes. I found it surprisingly difficult to break out of the mindset where more advanced building techniques are not allowed but once I had done so it was really fun as you are able to do almost anything! That was certainly the most challenging but also the most pleasing aspect of the experience.

Jamie: It's fun when you consider that you began on Bricks and More where all studs are exposed and then Creator where it's still mostly studs before coming to Creator Expert where just a few studs are left visible!

Is the number of studs exposed something which you take into consideration when designing sets?

Jamie: Absolutely. We intentionally leave some studs visible as that is very much part of LEGO's brand. For instance, you will see some studs on top of the London Bus which we could have avoided by using different building techniques but we decided to leave them there. It's also important that the model looks as though it is made from LEGO. Before joining the company I remember seeing a yellow truck* in the Designer Set line which at first glance appeared so clean that I was afraid it might be made from just a few huge pieces. Generally we find that people are less impressed if something is not obviously made from LEGO bricks.

* I suspect Jamie is referring to 4404 Land Busters from 2003.

View image at flickr

Morten: Furthermore, the London Bus is perfectly suited to leaving studs visible as they could represent rivets holding the panels together.

How did you come to be a part of the Creator Expert team and was there any particular reason that you were asked to design 10258 London Bus?

Morten: The Creator Expert team frequently borrows designers from other themes and it is a great compliment to be chosen as I think it shows that you are really being trusted to build something with relatively little supervision.

Jamie: That is precisely why you will often see designers coming back to Creator Expert on multiple occasions as those who have the most experience, like Morten, clearly possess the skills and the talent to take on new challenges such as 10258 London Bus. The experience is quite different to other themes where there is a great deal of collaboration at every stage as you are left to work fairly independently with Creator Expert. My role is only to come in and discuss certain aspects of a model before leaving the designer to forge their own path.

Morten: I think perhaps I was asked to design this set as I love vehicles and have designed plenty of those for the Creator line. Coincidentally, you may notice on my BrickList that many of my previous sets have been red, just like the bus.

Jamie: Although it was very easy to decide on red for the London Bus, unlike with the colour of many Creator sets!

The Creator Expert Vehicles have developed into a series of their own in recent years. Was that intended when the first one was released in 2008 or 2011, depending on whether you count 10187 Volkswagen Beetle, or has it evolved naturally?

Jamie: I was wondering whether you were going to mention the Beetle. That came about as we were designing cultural icons at the time and decided to create a car, so we were not deliberately thinking in the context of a vehicle series. We learned a great deal in the design of 10187 Volkswagen Beetle as leaving so many studs exposed at that scale is not ideal, particularly where such a famously curvy car is concerned. We then thought more about designing a range of different cars but decided to alter the scale to best suit the shape of the subject matter. Learning from the Beetle has therefore allowed us to create a series in which each model is defined by a few distinctive features and the scale develops from there.

Morten: We knew that we had a really cool concept once we designed 10220 Volkswagen T1 Camper Van and the fact that it is still out after six years is testament to the popularity of these large scale vehicles.

You mention that the scale of each model is defined by particular aspects of its design. Was that the case for 10258 London Bus?

Morten: From the very first sketch model we used the 5x5 round corner brick to create the curve at the back of the bus and then designed the model around that. More frequently the sets are constructed around the size of an appropriate wheel but in this case the right kind of tyre did not already exist so we created a brand new one with a tread which is accurate to the real Routemaster bus.

Jamie: That 5x5 round corner brick was created specifically for last year's 10252 Volkswagen Beetle and represents one of the rare instances in which we design a new part for the Creator Expert line. I did prompt the designers to try and use this element again as we want to demonstrate its full versatility and I certainly think we achieved that here as it really is a perfect match for this scale. In fact, I think we would have struggled to replicate such a unique curve at any other scale.

The proportions of the Routemaster bus are quite unusual so did you encounter any particular difficulties in designing the set?

Morten: The windows are interesting as they are quite long but are not too tall. I therefore spent quite some time working on those and ended up using tiles to cover the lower part of the windows in some areas. It was also quite tricky to ensure that the curved bodywork around the spiral starcase would remain sturdy and still fit seamlessly with the rest of the curves. I think the build is a lot of fun as there is a nice mixture of large sections and very intricate details which you will encounter along the way.

Many thanks for speaking with us!


We will be publishing our review of 10258 London Bus tomorrow, so keep an eye on the homepage for that.

17 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

Cool interview.

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By in United States,

Very nice to hear about the design process of larger sets like the bus! I find hearing behind-the-scenes experiences like this to be very interesting.

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By in United Kingdom,

It's interesting to hear that they like to leave studs exposed - it feels weird to me if a model is too smooth, and indeed, if people can't connect to it as brick-built they are less likely to be impressed...

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By in United States,

Lol. I had the exact same thought as Jamie about that same yellow truck in 2003. It didn't look like a LEGO set at all, but once I saw the set again up close many years later, I was surprised.

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By in Germany,

Thanks for the interview, it's always great to hear the backstory of a new set from the designer! :)

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By in United States,

It is always interesting to find out read these interviews.

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By in United States,

Interesting interview, nice work!

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By in Denmark,

Looking at the roof it appears that studs were not merely left exposed but deliberately introduced.

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By in Netherlands,

They are the 1 x 2 parts of (alternating 1 x 4 and 2 x 2) brackets. So they are functional elements whose studs are left exposed. As the designers say, they probably could have been avoided by using more complex techniques.

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By in Czech Republic,

what Ive been wondering about.. is a process of designing any larger set similar to e.g. particular scenes in a hollywood movie? First you have some artistic scetches, art work and based on that a particular scene layout takes place.. is it also the case of lego sets? that some designer scetches a drawing, a grid-model, and that is some sort of a baseline for the brick designers? Or do they just wake up with an idea "lets do a new railroad station!" - and gets into a research how a railroad station looks like, amassing documentation, photos, plans etc.. ?

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By in Australia,

Special request - can the review include a minifigure for scale?

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By in United Kingdom,

@chrisaw - Will do.

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By in United Kingdom,

Thanks @CapnRex101 for being in London for this event and for conducting this interview. An interesting read. :o)

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By in Australia,

Wondering how this will scale in my city scape.
I feel the studs on top are ripe for a Batman/Joker bus top battle.

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By in New Zealand,

@chrisaw In the LEGO video of interview with designers there is a minifig in the bus that the designer then takes out. It gives you an idea of the scale difference. Video at https://youtu.be/lc2GclkSxJo

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By in Ireland,

Nice interview, you always learn something from Jamie.
Small point: "1x4 arch brick" should be "1/4 arch brick" or "5x5 round corner brick".

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By in United States,

Informative interview! Leaving some exposed studs makes sense...it does need to look like a LEGO creation. And with so many of us having fond memories of riding these monstrosities all over London, it is a good choice of model. Everyone knows you are talking about a London bus when they see a photo of the red beast. Nice move, LEGO.

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