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From sports cars that really work to sporty sneakers that don’t… Designer Florian Muller on building things in LEGO.
How did you come to be working for the LEGO Group?
I had quite an unusual journey to becoming a LEGO Designer. Before I joined the LEGO Group I was working at a strategic consultancy, supporting the company and their clients in their digital transformation towards modern technologies. After five years in the consulting industry, I was looking for a change – but I didn’t want to go to any company.
You were looking for something completely different?
Yes, this time I wanted to turn something I enjoyed as a hobby into a job. So back in 2016, I applied for a job at the LEGO Agency as a Technical Advisor and got hired. I became a weekly commuter to Billund which gave me, especially in the beginning of my LEGO days, a lot of free time after work. I started spending that time in our brick stock.
And presumably the brick stock is a repository of every kind of LEGO brick?
More or less, yes! It’s an amazing place. You can find every existing element perfectly sorted… And so I started to build my own models there. One day, my manager noticed this and asked if I could imagine doing this as a designer. At first I thought it was just a joke, but I was very excited. My manager reached out to the design department and instead of doing my own creations in the evenings, I got the opportunity to work on small briefs. With this, I built a design portfolio. This led to my being able to switch my profession in Model Design.
When was that?
That was 2018; 2019…
Quite recent; brilliant. So what other roles have you held there?
I started in the LEGO Agency as a Technical Advisor and Producer and moved from there to Creative Play Lab, the LEGO Group’s research and development lab for future products as a Senior Innovation Designer, bringing tech and design together… In July 2019, I got the opportunity to join the Adults product development team as a Model Designer. This was also the point when I fully switched my profession from Tech and IT to Design.
And on what kind of things did you work?
In my time at the LEGO Group, I worked on a range of products, from programming our very first LEGO DUPLO Stories Alexa Skill to concept models for new play themes and Creator Expert. I also got to work on the LEGO Technic Bugatti.
I was going to ask about that. That was a full-scale LEGO Technic Bugatti… That really drives! It’s jaw-dropping! But, as a designer, your contributions also include work on the seasonal Gingerbread House, and all the things you just listed. In your wide experience, then, what skills do you need to be a LEGO designer?
Curiosity, enthusiasm, imagination, storytelling, endurance and for sure creativity. Everything else – like tools and process – can be learned over time.
Great answer. And in what way does working for the LEGO Group defy people’s expectations, do you think?
Great question! I think a common expectation is that you just spend a whole day building with bricks and design everything the way you imagine it. And that is still partially true… And the best part of the job! But you also spend quite some time in meetings, working with stakeholders, discussing solutions for problems and ensuring you stay on time, process and budget.
Yes; I guess some people would imagine it’s just playing with LEGO… But there does have to be some process and progress! Alright, so… LEGO Group recently launched an adidas Superstar set. To me, this seems like an extremely intricate piece of design. Can you walk me through the process?
The adidas Superstar was a challenging project and for all people involved something of a “first time”. The idea for a sneaker as a product originated in our marketing team. With the Adults team, we started to look into the most popular areas of interests for recruiting new adults, and with sports and fashion being among the biggest areas of interest, an iconic sneaker would be relevant to both.
A shoe, though?! It just doesn’t seem obvious to me!
No! But also the Sneakerhead scene is something that’s received a lot of interest over the past years, and there was a bigger collaboration with adidas already in the making… So it was clear thinking to choose the iconic adidas Superstar.
I like to think I know my way around a collection of LEGO bricks but I confess I wouldn’t know where to start with this… What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge to transform the sneaker into a LEGO product was definitely its organic shape – and the fact that wearable objects always look different depending on who’s wearing it… So, what is the right shape, angle or expression of it?
To read the full interview on our sister site Mojo Nation click here
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