Interview with Henrik Andersen, designer of 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer

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75252 Imperial Star Destroyer has evoked some tremendous discussion. Brickset and Jedi News were fortunate to speak with its designer, Henrik Andersen, while attending the Rebuild the World event recently and discussed this addition to the Ultimate Collector Series.

Brickset: How did the development process for 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer begin?

Henrik: Shortly before the summer holidays during 2017, the LEGO Star Wars design team discussed which subjects may be most suitable for the next Ultimate Collector Series model. The design director, Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, was away so I began creating sketches for an Imperial Star Destroyer. When he returned, the discussion continued and I received approval to continue developing the model.

Had the price been decided before you started development?

No, I just wanted to produce a model which matched, or perhaps exceeded, the size of 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer from 2002. I was also aiming to create a sturdier vehicle and I believe the accuracy has been improved. While the original set was inspired primarily by screenshots from the film, this example takes inspiration from the prop which was used for filming.

Focusing upon the movie prop was primarily decided by my passion for building scale models, usually depicting trucks. I always try to maintain great authenticity when assembling them and worked hard to achieve comparable accuracy with the Star Destroyer.

Have any other Star Wars sets been designed using the filming model as the primary source?

I am not aware of any other examples, although that is the method I would use if I were building any subsequent Ultimate Collector Series models. 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer probably takes primary inspiration from the onscreen vessel which is an effective method for design, although looking at the physical model can provide different advantages when trying to achieve absolute authenticity.

Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator studio model - Image from modelermagic.com.

Why did you choose to design an Imperial I-class Star Destroyer?

Creating an Imperial I-class Star Destroyer seemed most appropriate because my colleague, César Soares, had already designed 75244 Tantive IV. Producing the first two vehicles from throughout the entire Star Wars saga felt perfect for the twentieth anniversary of LEGO Star Wars. That decision did make finding reference material more challenging though because most images feature the Avenger rather than the Devastator.

The designer video was originally intended to feature me choosing between the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer and the later variant. However, the video makes it seem as though I am focusing upon the wrong vehicle for inspiration which is slightly unfortunate.

Did you consider including alternative turbolaser cannons so the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer could become an Imperial II-class version?

No, we were focused entirely upon the Imperial I-class model because they are surprisingly different. While the turbolaser cannons are probably the most visible distinguishing design feature, the texture across the hull was also updated considerably between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

Were you aware that Imperial I-class Star Destroyers might be appearing in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when designing this set?

That would have been exceptional planning but no, I was not aware of their possible presence in the Sequel Trilogy until the trailer was released at Star Wars Celebration. It was undoubtedly a welcome surprise though and the same might be true for the Tantive IV, of course!

Did you consider including any interior?

No. We were determined to design something purely for display when the concepts were developed. Including an interior can certainly be fun but entails possible compromises in the rigidity of the model which we planned to avoid. Also, providing internal detail would substantially increase the quantity of pieces and the associated cost.

Are there any areas of the model you would have liked to design differently?

When developing the stand, I had originally planned to construct a triangular base that would form the shadow of the Imperial Star Destroyer. It would have featured two pillars towards the back and another further forward. However, that stand was not strong enough so I decided upon the rectangular structure which provides much better support.

I think some additional tiled surfaces might have been effective too, although that would entail adding further layers of tiles and plates above the panels. That might be possible with smaller craft but would have added several hundred elements to 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer. Also, I think the visible studs look good on LEGO models and distinguish this Star Destroyer from typical plastic model kits.

The set contains no new moulded elements. Do you think any might have been necessary?

I enjoy using our existing pieces whenever possible and cannot think of any particular areas where I might have required new elements here. There are some pieces returning in light bluish grey though, including larger plates and the antenna parts which have generated excitement. Moreover, there are several elements which have not been produced in light bluish grey before, such as the BB-8 heads fitted behind the command bridge.

Did you consider including additional dark bluish grey elements?

That was certainly something we discussed. However, the model is absolutely enormous and adding further colours would therefore make little sense, particularly when viewing the filming model which is almost completely light grey. Much of the colour depth you see during the films is created by shadows and lighting.

In fact, creating shadows was something we briefed the photographers about when they were taking promotional photos of the model. We really hoped to replicate the onscreen lighting conditions where possible so those images include many more shadows than most official set photos and that was our intention.

10030 Imperial Star Destroyer and 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer are assembled very differently. The original model involves building four large panels sequentially while they are more divided for the new set. Was that an intentional decision?

Yes, although not necessarily for the reasons you might expect. We certainly wanted to improve the build flow and the resultant enjoyment but distributing the weight during construction was even more important. Unusually, the stand is assembled first so we needed to ensure that the model would stay absolutely in position throughout the build process, even when fitting sections at the very back or the nose.

Construction of 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer also differs from 75192 Millennium Falcon because the shape of this model becomes apparent quickly.

Absolutely, the triangular silhouette of an Imperial Star Destroyer becomes visible towards the end of bag three whereas the Millennium Falcon comes together later. That is also the stage when you may actually wear the vehicle by putting your legs through its hollow frame, somewhat like a Microfighter!

On the subject of the frame, how did you improve upon the magnetic structure from 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer?

I was keen to avoid using magnets, in part because they sometimes become less structurally sound over time but also because we wanted to use exclusively plastic elements. The decision to use small ball joints emerged quite early in the development process and I think that works perfectly. They were originally situated along the central axis but putting them on the edge creates a more accurate shape.

You might notice several additional connection points which remain unused on the dorsal side. They are not actually required but I wanted to mirror the sides of the frame during construction so some of the attachment points from the underside reappear on top.

What other difficulties did you encounter when designing the successor to 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer, especially since the original set is held in such high esteem?

I did not actually build 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer until after completing my own version because I hoped to avoid being influenced too much by the other model. I apply that same principle to as many LEGO Star Wars sets as I can when designing new models because it assists in keeping the construction techniques fresh.

This decision was especially important here because focusing upon the model from 2002 may have influenced me to change the proportions. However, I know that the silhouette of 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer is accurate as I used three dimensional models of the original prop and used them as the template for building my rendition of the Star Destroyer, almost like three dimensional tracing paper!

Many thanks for speaking with us!


Henrik has also designed almost fifty City sets. Look out for our discussion of those products next month.

You can view the comprehensive BrickList of Henrik's creations here and read our review of 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer here.

27 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm amazed at how many classic Lego sets Henrik has worked on. What an awesome designer.

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By in United Kingdom,

I get that it may be a real pain to design but why are the Lego star Destroyers never flat like they are in the film? To charge about £150 too much for this as well makes it a bit of a joke. It’s no improvement over the 2014 version imo, and at least that one had an interior and good mini figure selection

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By in United States,

They did a terrific job designing this set!

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By in Netherlands,

How did you end up deciding on the price?

Well, $700 was a nice, round, high number.

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By in Netherlands,

Thank you for doing and posting the interview!

Going through his Bricklist, that man is a LEGO design legend considering how many memorable and also first time original sets throughout different themes he has worked on! My hat off to you, Henrik!

P.S. An idea for people that own this ISD already (not me) and enter the ‘Show us your ISD’ contest:
“That is also the stage when you may actually wear the vehicle...”
I would love to see pictures of that in the contest! Might be a winner, LOL.

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By in Germany,

75192 UCS Millennium Falcon : 7969 people own this set
5434 want this set

75252 UCS Imperial Star Destroyer : 717 people own this set
2179 want this set

pretty sad numbers

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By in United Kingdom,

So they instructed the photographers to doctor the publicity pictures of the Lego model, the justification being they were replicating the techniques used by the film makers to achieve shadow and texture.

Are we meant to supply a lighting rig for our homes as well when we display the model? Because adding different shades of brick to achieve texture & shadow “makes little sense.”

Unbelievable.

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By in United Kingdom,

@StarWarzFan7777 - The set designer does not decide upon the price.

@lamby750 - LEGO has not 'doctored' the images but they decided to photograph the model to accentuate its best features, as with every LEGO set. Moreover, ambient lighting would complement this model whereas even lighting from a dedicated rig would lessen the shadows.

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By in France,

Interesting interview.
saw the model in the local lego shop the other day and it is certainly impressive on display. Waiting for a decent discount....

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By in United States,

Incredible interview! It's fascinating to hear about the amount of thought that goes into stuff we as fans might not think much about, like keeping the weight balanced throughout the entire building process instead of just the end, or briefing the photography team on how the lighting should be to accurately reflect how people remember how people remember the ship looking in the film.

The choice of this year's two exclusives also seems like a no-brainer after hearing (well, reading) Henrik describe how he wanted to celebrate 20 years of LEGO Star Wars with the two first ships you see in the original movie. That honestly hadn't occurred to me previously since these sets lack the "20th anniversary collection" branding seen in some of this year's other sets and polybags. I'd just assumed that these were two iconic ships that hadn't gotten the deluxe treatment in a long time and so were good candidates for another attempt.

It's also awesome to hear that LEGO has better access to original props and other behind-the-scenes material than they had when the LEGO Star Wars theme began. I wonder how much of this has to do with the growing strength of their relationship with Lucasfilm/Disney and how much has to do with Lucasfilm/Disney gradually digging into that older material and giving licensing partners more access to it?

Certainly I can think of other non-LEGO examples of inaccuracies in past Star Wars licensed material getting clarified in recent years by referring to behind-the-scenes material… for example, the revelation that the alien musician Max Rebo plays his keyboard-like instrument not with his hands, but his feet! https://www.starwars.com/news/star-wars-mysteries-getting-to-the-bottom-of-max-rebo

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By in United States,

"you may actually wear the vehicle by putting your legs through its hollow frame, somewhat like a Microfighter!"

I am eager to see someone modify the finished product to do this.

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By in Netherlands,

@CapnRex101 yeah true. Still, it was another insightful interview into how sets are designed. I still wonder why no new elements for the thrusters were made though, they and the visible bright interior colors are the only things in the design that bug me.

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By in United States,

@TomKazutara:
It's still fairly new. Give it some time to catch up. I mean, the new Falcon has been out for over two years, while the new ISD has been out less than two months.

@AustinPowers:
That's an extremely subjective take on this, and not everyone agrees with it. I put a fair amount of effort into color-correcting the Tron lightcycles because they look goofy with dark-bley patches when they're clearly solid black in the movie. For a small set like that, it was manageable, even though some of the dark-bley pieces don't exist in black, forcing me to make extensive changes to the structure just to achieve the same basic shape in a slightly different color scheme (never mind how tricky it was to fix the lightwall, which looks like how they appeared in the original film but nothing like the ones in the sequel).

This is a set that's geared towards adult collectors with disposable income, and they're going to want it to look as authentic as possible. Throw some dart-launchers in for the turbolasers, scale up the bridge so you can fit minifigs inside, and add a giant handle to the bottom that you can't remove or hide so little kids who can barely lift the thing can attempt to swoosh it around... You might as well do all of that if you're going to mottle the color scheme just to liven it up. Trying to color-correct a model of this size could be extremely expensive, or nearly impossible, and the thought of trying to do that absolutely would negatively impact sales.

And if you think it's impossible to make a set look that good under normal lighting conditions, you clearly haven't studied lighting design. Professional photographers use lots of bounce lighting, but try to avoid using anything direct. Bounce lighting softens shadows, and wipes out most glare. Diffusers help a lot with glare as well. So in this case, they said they had to actually brief the photography crew to get them to dial back some of the usual tricks. They're probably still using diffusers, but they appear to have reduced the number of light sources to force the shadows to stand out. They probably also have expensive cameras that can capture a great image with a modest amount of light. There are a lot of ways they can affect the final image either externally, or inside the camera, without having to resort to editing software to heavily tweak the image. Yes, they probably still throw it into an editor, but they do that for everything because a bad image could mean huge reductions in sales.

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By in United Kingdom,

@AustinPowers ... its just marketing, every Company that sells something does it to some level or another.

Dont make it sound like the designer set out with some insidious plan to inflate the price of the set and then trick us with good lighting on the box/advert photographs into buying it... that is just stupid.

If you have to ‘hate’ on someone blame LEGO, the designer is just doing his job, and looking at his portfolio his skill and talent with the good old Lego brick is pretty much without question.

I’d like to write more words, but I’ve got a 4776 piece Space Ship to build and it just wont wait.....

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By in United States,

I love interviews with the designers; it's interesting to get a peek at what went into designing the sets. I especially liked how he wouldn't build 10030 until after he finished designing his ISD. Shows how carefully he plans out each detail of the process.

I saw this set in a LEGO store last weekend, and it is more impressive in person than I thought it would be. I have 10030, and while I love that set I dare say 75252 is a better looking version of the ISD. I just can't get by the price Every time I look at my UCS MF and see the row of mini figures that came with it, and the complexity of the detail in the set, I feel I got my $800 worth. I just can't see $700 of value in the ISD with 2 mini figures.

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By in United Kingdom,

Great in depth interview that answered some of the common questions we wanted to and much more! Interesting that it is mentioned that the studdy aesthetic is preferred over flat panels - generally this has been the case when I hear from Lego designers as it’s thought not having enough studs to place more bricks or Minifigs on top of something is ‘not Lego’ - for want of a better phrase. I still don’t get why people are talking about garishly obvious colours underneath the panels - they really aren’t noticeable when you build the set for yourself.

I just got round to submitting my ShowUsYourISD entry today, where the ISD is now leaning against my mantelpiece vertically with backlighting - it’s surprisingly strong to move and rotate the ISD while lifting it and it’s still quite strong even if you don’t use the carry handle or use exactly the carrying areas they specify.

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By in United States,

I'm so 'brainwashed' that I might buy a second copy of this set. At full price. Then wear it like a ballerina tutu. Halloween costume: Check.

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By in United States,

I really want to see someone wear it like a microfighter. XD

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By in United States,

@hamMOC LOL! It might be a bit heavy though :)

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By in Germany,

Censorship. Nice.

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By in Germany,

@PurpleDave:
"Yes, they probably still throw it into an editor, but they do that for everything because a bad image could mean huge reductions in sales."

Indeed. Heaven forbid the picture shows the finished set like it actually looks as that could really hurt sales.
I rest my case.

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By in Germany,

Thank you for the interview, that was really interesting to read!

I'm the first one to complain about prices, but here it's not relevant. For a product like this, probably a brand director or even higher ups confirms the price, while a product or brand manager calculates and proposes it.

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By in United Kingdom,

This guy comes across as a really unassuming chap. Absolutely loved his design of the UCS B Wing which is one of my favourite UCS’s.

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By in Luxembourg,

Thanks for publishing this interview @CapnRex101. I know it takes a lot of work transcribing these, but I always love hearing the insights shared in these articles.

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By in United States,

Nice interview as usual. I find it funny how when talking about the interior he says "entails possible compromises in the rigidity of the model". Knowing Ras made an ISD with a full interior that is more rigid than this model. However, 100% correct on the price increase though and should have just said that.

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By in Germany,

Also, can I remind people that there is a 4800 piece set that cost 300€ called Ninjago City.
Why is are 4700 pieces for 700€ justified?

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By in Sweden,

The price of this one is quite outrageous. And after seeing the model in store I wasn’t impressed. It’s not that big and the all-grey coloring is very boring. The designer did a faithful representation, but in total this is not an attractive set.

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