Even though I am an adult, my mother gives me Legos every year for Christmas. It is a tradition. I am old enough that my during my childhood “sets” were not popular, I had no instructions or custom parts to build specific artifacts. My memories are of an old moving box full of bricks. My childhood Legos are long gone, but I do have myriad new unopened boxes tucked away in a closet. Its been one of those things percolating in the back of my brain for the past few years. What can I do with the legos? My answer is lego constructions as an intermediate step in the graphic design process between sketching and digital execution. I can hear you thinking either “that’s a dumb idea” or “that’s an awesome idea.” You are absolutely 100% correct.
The antecedents of graphic design were all hand skills; craft-based activities making tangible things. In my experience at least, I see designers sketching less. Less pencil and paper coupled with digital explorations as part of a normal workflow and the ubiquity of the screen as the end product, all result in fewer instances of the making being manifest in the real world. My idea is to insert a moment of crafting. A glimpse of the concrete. To craft your ideas again. The notion is that after you have done some explorations to physically construct a logo, symbol or icon using toy building blocks.
The rules are simple. You can only use basic blocks, rectangles and squares, no fancy shapes. Legos are expensive, use other products as needed. Making a bitmap in photoshop for a guide is cheating. End of rules.
Why is this useful and not dumb:
- It forces simplification.
- It creates the potential for ambiguity.
- It breaks your usual routine.
- It is a model for understanding resolution. The larger you make your construction the higher the fidelity it has.
- The physicality can be helpful. The typical way to encounter a design is in print or on a screen this third tangible form can be compelling. It harkens back to some of the handcraft aspects of the history of graphic design.
- It is fun.
- It can make a unique client gift at the end of a project.
I am a big proponent of graphic design processes. Of having one, and consistently applying it. I also think it is helpful to interrupt it once in a while. To disrupt the routine. It slows down the design process, which can provide insight and breakthroughs. In defense of the “this is dumb” argument, slowing down your process is almost always less than ideal. Despite not always being practical it could be helpful or insightful in a casual studio environment, an educational setting, or amid a creative block. I had fun trying it, and as a bonus, I have a box full of legos again.