Why did I work for LEGO?
During the Master's Course at the University of Technology of Delft I had the opportunity to collaborate with LEGO Group. The design project was a complete New Product Development process consisting of three phases: problem definition, concept development and elaboration.
Our team critically considered many companies. However, LEGO was unanimously chosen as the one that could provide the most challenging opportunity. We saw LEGO as the company that convinced the world with simplicity; LEGO, with its ability to reconcile tradition and innovation, precision and perception, creativity and craftsmanship.
The company brief was to find and develop new play experiences which are “obviously LEGO, but never seen before from LEGO”. A focus is on play experiences targeted at boys because the LEGO Group has recently already invested a lot in the development of new products for girls and pre-school children which will be launched soon. Besides that, the focus was on children from 5 to 11 years of age that are light or new users. This target is a group that has a positive attitude to LEGO play but own no or only a few LEGO products.
The first step followed during the LEGO project was the strategic analysis for the Lego group.
This activity helped us in order to gain a better understanding of the company, the brand and the market in which it operates. The analysis was subdivided in internal, external analysis and a SWOT analysis.
Designing for children, even if it could be thought of as a simple issue, is not an easy task. There are several elements that a designer has to take into account. For this reason we decided to lead the user research focusing on theoretical studies and context mapping sessions.
A good project starts from the study of theories that can help the designer to understand the ‘foundations’ of children’s growth and learning. This activity is one of the most important and inspirational phases of the process.
The main objectives of this phase was: to acquire knowledge on the development and needs of children and the role of toys in this process; to acquire knowledge on learning and the role of means for informal learning in this phase; and to learn how to apply this knowledge in the design process. Some study results can be found in the dedicated carousel picture on in the following images.
The main activities followed during the context mapping sessions were:
The findings of the context mapping research were analyzed on the basis of the literature research in order to investigate the deep motivations behind the phenomena observed in the session.
As a result of the foregone strategic and user analysis we were able to formulate several design directions. This was the final step of the first project phase.
Idea generation phase
Following the first analysis phase of the company, the market and the target group; the team entered a second phase of idea generation. The design directions, which represented the main outcome of the first phase, were used as a starting point for the implementation of the design assignment up to the creation of different conceptual designs.
The first brainstorm about the design directions provided many different ideas on new designs for the LEGO Group.
Idea selection using matrices
The seventeen design ideas were mapped onto five different matrices which were suggested by the LEGO Group and slightly adapted by us. Matrices are a visual and inspiring way to gain a deeper understanding of the relative differences between our ideas. The followed criteria were:
Idea selection using personas
Based on information from the LEGO Group and our previous user research we created several personas.
The following profiles describe three archetypal light users (e.g. John, Nicky and Paul) in a compelling way. They helped create a shared understanding among our design team of the different light user’s specific needs. They also proved very valuable in the process of selecting concepts.
Second idea selection matrix
The five concepts were mapped onto several matrices, to reach a better understanding on each concept. The concept choice was based on a final matrix combining most important criteria regarding this project according to the LEGO Group:
From this final matrix it can be concluded that the Magic Book and Moonlight concept are most promising to develop into more detail.
These two concepts were then subject to user testing and market research analyses. The goal of this evaluative user study was to understand if the play experience provided by both concepts was valuable and whether they fit the target group of LEGO light users. Together with the market research, this user study was useful to select the most promising concept.
The user testing was conducted following these steps:
After the two analysis the concept: ‘LEGO Magic Book’ was chosen as the one with the highest fit with the target group and is most promising for the LEGO Group to bring to market.
We have further developed the Magic Book concept that was created in the second project phase. This phase focused on developing a functional prototype, a market strategy and testing the concept with users.
To describe the concept we firstly defined the project storyboard and play experience. The Magic Book play experiences focuses mainly on:
Building the prototype
In order to define the book story, during this prototype realization, we firstly discuss existing books for our target group, the level of difficulty of the story, the actual text, the illustrations and the theme.
As result of this analysis we defined the story flowchart that children have to follow while playing with magic Book.
One of the results from the Play Theme Consumer Insight Research was that children often have difficulties understanding traditional LEGO instructions. From our user research we found that 2D instructions underneath a base plate are clear and understandable for light users. For more complex models these were not sufficient however, so we also added traditional LEGO 3D instructions.
Our previous user research showed that children really enjoyed playing in the dark. This gave us a good reason to include lights into this concept; making it possible to read in the dark! A new brick was designed and 3D-printed for our prototype. The new LED light brick takes account of existing ‘LEGO Brick’ dimensions so that they fit all other LEGO bricks.
"Packaging is like weather, when it’s bad: everybody complains. When it’s good nobody notices."
The LEGO Group is very good at communicating their brand through consistent packaging; we took on the challenge of developing a new packaging for the Magic Book. With our packaging we hoped to inspire the LEGO Group by showing other solutions.
Final confirmative study
In order to evaluate our concept we led a final confirmative study involving several participants into the study. Four methods were used to evaluate the concept:
As result of this final research, the concept was very easily communicated and attractive. All parents and children were very positive towards the concept and were ager to play with it. In conclusion the concept was evaluated very well from most of the participants.
Our group was highly ambitious and rarely lost focus or motivation, this enabled us to work extremely hard. In LEGO land, we learned the children are the real magicians; the designers only deliver the wands.
One of the biggest unforeseen challenges was to develop something completely new for the LEGO Group. Such a long standing company has developed thousands of successful products. A lot of our ideas evoked a “been there, done that” reaction with our LEGO coaches. Our final concept ‘Magic Book’ seemed very new to the world at first.
In conclusion, it was a great personal success to work for a company like LEGO. It was such an exciting and inspiring experience, impossible to forget.