I’m doing the last details on this batch of LEGO kits, the bulk of which is the design & assembly of the instruction pamphlets. Here’s what my process looks like:
I build and rebuild the final design a few times with my hands, and I puzzle out the best way for the kit to come together. This is surprisingly hard as the right order for the pieces to come together isn’t necessarily suggested by the design itself. It needs to be a construction that is easy to visualize, and you don’t want to change the “camera” angle too much (since cubes don’t exactly imply their own orientation), which prevents a lot of what might feel natural in your hands. I then take photos of each step.
I come back to the LEGO software I use, Bricksmith, and recreate the photos in the application, snapping screenshots as I go. I then print these out.
Based on the printed diagrams, I draw the instructions. I base them on these diagrams instead of the physical LEGOs to ensure that I maintain a consistent scale and perspective. I don’t trace, so that the drawings still have that crummy look which I kinda enjoy.
I then scan the drawings and bring them into Photoshop where I can clean up mistakes and rearrange the pieces so that it looks correct. You can see that two drawings became one here, as I messed up a chunk but didn’t want to redraw the whole thing from the start. I also fade out the pieces that have already been built to help focus attention on what’s new.
Then it’s just a matter of laying these out on the page, printing, slicing, folding, and stapling. That’s also a ton of work, but not particularly interesting.
My foray into the world of LEGO was covered by the NYTimes today. It’s all very dizzying and makes me feel a bunch of different feelings about a bunch of different things.
One of the weirdest aspects is that I’m barely getting started in this medium. There are so many talented folks working with LEGO out there, why interview me? I don’t come from the AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) community but I’m starting to learn who they are and what they do and it’s lightyears ahead of my work. So, I feel a bit awkward being profiled when these guys are putting out stunning pieces only possible with years of dedication and craft. I am, comparatively, a rube.
I know some people find the taxidermy kits compelling out of a detached irony. I’ve had people ask me about them from this perspective. For myself, I was working more out of an interest in animal forms, and how they render in this geometric style. It’s not new territory for me, and I certainly admit influence from Charley Harper and Always With Honor. LEGO has a tradition of enthusiasm, and modeling kits on real subjects comes out of a genuine love for those subjects. I aspire to convey a similar enthusiasm in my work, and it stings a bit when people read it as the LEGO equivalent of putting a bird on it.
I’m not here to complain, or humblebrag, just trying to process all of this transparently. Really: this has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. It started because I wanted to experiment in selling a physical object (interactive designers tend to be jealous of print folk, in this respect). What I didn’t expect was how connected I would feel to the people who purchase kits from me. I love getting their letters — the majority of the Christmas shipments were going out to the Midwest and the South, often to women purchasing them for their hunter husbands and sons. I don’t know how sustainable it will be for me to have an apartment filled with plastic toys and packing materials, but it may be my full time gig for the next few weeks.
Onto happier things: to coincide with this piece, I’ve brought back the deer for sale and added two new kits to the shop: a bear mount, and a standing fox. I’m not sure where things are headed from here, but it’s been pretty wild.
Here are some of my recent favorite pieces from the LEGO world. In photo order:
I am excited to officially launch my shop with the release of the deer LEGO kit. I’ve tried building it with real pieces now, and I need to make a couple structural changes, but it will look the same. Also, I’m hand drawing the graphics for the instruction manual, which should be fun and painstaking.
I wanted to get these up in time for Christmas, but because I have to order these pieces on an individual basis from resellers, I need orders to come in before December 5th to get them out in time.
This was super fun to do, I hope people like it! Tell your kids, tell your wife.
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This is the LEGO kit I’ve been working on. Would you buy this? Would other people buy this? I’ve never sold anything before, but I’m really happy with the guy. I’m considering a series, maybe, but I don’t know if people would be interested. Let me know, somehow?