How do you become a LEGO Technic designer?

Find out from our Welsh design intern, Ieuan Hatherall.

Ieuan Hatherall is a 21 year old automotive design student from Wales. Over the past couple of months, we have (quite successfully) turned him over to the Technic side. Now that it’s almost time for this talented intern of ours to go back to Coventry University to finish his degree, we wanted to check if he’s ready to graduate from Technic...

We’ll start with the million Danish Kroner question: How do you become a LEGO Technic design intern?

I’m studying automotive design at Coventry University, and right now I’m in my third year out of four. An internship is highly recommended as part of the course and the opportunity arose to experience a childhood dream.

I’ve always loved LEGO. My course director knows one of the LEGO designers – not in Technic – and he encouraged me to apply for an internship. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was chosen for a skype interview, and I ended up being recruited by Andrew Woodman (Senior Design Manager in Technic). I had almost no experience building with Technic, but I guess Andy saw that as an advantage. I didn’t have to unlearn any questionable building techniques so I could learn to apply my knowledge to a building system more easily.

 

What’s a typical day like for you in the Technic team?

Everyone has made me feeI right at home! I get to work on projects and learn from the designers. I’ve also enjoyed the model building tests we’ve done at a local school. When you see kids play with the models, you understand why so much care and so many rules are in place to get the highest quality, both with the model itself and the building instructions.

When I used to build LEGO sets as a kid, I would sometimes think “Oh, they could have done this or that differently”, but now I know everything has been considered, evaluated, reconsidered and done in a certain way for a reason.

 

What has been the best part of your internship?

Getting a model into production. It’s unbelievable! I was given the job to design the alternative model for a set, so the age range and theme were already set, but I was determined to make it just as much fun as the main model. It’s been a dream job for me, just unbelievably cool – it’s like all-day playtime, it doesn’t feel like work!

We hope you’ve learned a few things from us, even if it hasn’t felt like work?

SO much, big and small things, both personally and professionally. My favorite thing about Technic is that it’s so educational. I had tried to figure out how a differential works for years! I never really got it. Then I built the 42039 24 Hours Racecar, and BAM, I got it straight away.

I’ve learned how not to design for myself but for the kids: it has to be structural, functional and aesthetic at the same time, and the balance between ease of build and the right level of challenge is crucial.

I always thought I would become a car designer – no question about it. I was always very into simplicity and minimalistic looks. I think we’re often in such a hurry to grow up, look grown-up, and do grown-up stuff. But you really shouldn’t. You should always remember to play and have fun! I would love to work for Technic after I finish my degree. Maybe I’ll get a few years of experience in the car design industry first. Andy advised me to try “the real world”, too, and I think he may be right…

The design process is fantastic to experience in practice. Researching an idea, sketching, model building, criticizing and refining constantly until you get it just spot on. That’s something I can use anywhere.

What’s your advice for aspiring Technic designers?

Keep an open mind in everything you do. You never know where your interests will take you. Never close a door because you get a “no”. It’s normal to experience disappointment or frustration when you want to try something new and it doesn’t work out, or when you apply for internships or jobs and fail to get them. You learn so much from having your work, your decisions and designs challenged over time. It makes both you and your results better. Never give up, learn from the good and bad times and somehow it will all work out.