Review: The new LEGO Dots series (and a closer look at four sets)
In reviewing four of the new sets, I discovered that LEGO Dots may offer a glimpse into the future of LEGO sets for all ages.
I’m going to be honest—This article began as a simple review of four of the new LEGO Dots sets, with the intention of focusing on the reuseable storage containers that the sets come in, rather than spending much time on the sets themselves. I was surprised to learn that LEGO Dots has a lot more to offer than I expected, and may even give us a glimpse into the future of creativity at The LEGO Group.
The four sets I built were #41904 Animal Picture Holders, #41905 Rainbow Jewelry Stand, #41907 Desk Organizer, and #41914 Creative Picture Frames. The first two are $14.99 and come in the smaller 322Medium AzurMedium Azure container, and the last two are $19.99 and come in the larger 226Cool YellowBright Light Yellow container. While this isn’t a perfect cross-section of the LEGO Dots product line, it gave me a thorough appreciation of the soul of the new theme. (I didn’t get any of the bracelets since they were out of stock.)
A new balance of Direction and Inspiration
What surprised me most when cracking into these sets was twofold: The one page instruction sheet that only tells you how to build the studded base of each model, and the amount of fun (and time) that I had trying to figure out the best way to decorate each model.
While each set gives you some decoration ideas, I wasn’t excited by the samples they provided… so I drew inspiration from artistic traditions that I felt matched the color palette which was provided with each set. This included Native American textile patterns, Psychedelic art, and simple patterns.
The one exception was #41904 Animal Picture Holders, which includes seven example animals to decorate the three picture holders. (I was not feeling creative enough that evening to come up with additional animal ideas to try.)
The magic of these sets is that they give you a blank canvas and enough pieces to create something completely unique. Kids with a lot of patience and creativity could spend hours decorating, and re-decorating these models! I can definitely imagine how more involved parents could help kids explore different high-contrast and geometric art styles to try and re-create using LEGO Dots.
Unfortunately, I do need to admit that all of the actual sets fall short of the ambition implied by the new series. Creative Picture Frames is probably the strongest of the bunch, thanks to the three frames you get to decorate, and a wide enough 2-stud border to explore some interesting patterns. The Desk Organizer offers a large canvas to decorate, but is not very well suited to organizing a desk and the color palette burns my eyes. The Rainbow Jewelry Stand doesn’t offer enough pieces to decorate the cloud very well, and the Animal Picture Holders are cute, but didn’t inspire as much creativity.
More to come?
If you can’t tell, I’m thrilled to see LEGO sets that are designed to spark creativity. Even if these four sets don’t achieve the ultimate ambition for the series, we may see slightly larger and more compelling LEGO Dots sets in the future. What excited me even more is that LEGO is continuing to experiment with sets that give some instructions, but leave a lot of the final decisions up to the builder.
This approach is not entirely new. #21050 LEGO Architecture Studio (2013) offered a wide open creative platform alogn with a book that offered inspiration but few instructions to get started. Fast forward to 2018 and the excellent #41597 Go Brick Me set, which included directions to build a custom Brickheadz figure. It included instructions for a wide range of clothing, facial expressions, and hairstyles, but inspired everyone who tried it to customize their figure beyond the options included in the book! (I still don’t understand why that set was retired just 9 months after it was released!)
I’m hopeful that we see similar products aimed at adults, since The LEGO Group has finally admitted that Adult Fans of LEGO are important to their business. I’m very hopeful to see the upcoming LEGO Art series expand to include easier ways to inspire artistic expression through pattern and color (or even just an easier way to create a mural based on photos of your family)!
#41904 Animal Picture Holders
$14.99 (14.99€ / £12.99), 423 pieces in a Small 322Medium AzurMedium Azure Dots Container, ages 6+. #41904 Animal Picture Holders has a crazy low $0.04 per piece, although it doesn’t take long to understand why—most of the pieces are tiny 1×1 tiles (with a mixture of Square, Round, ½ round, and ¼ round).
I was not particularly excited by this set, although I do think the tiny animal faces are cute. I decided to build this set first because I wanted to see the new 1×2×2 Picture Holder piece, for which there are three in the set.
There are seven bags in this set, none of which were numbered. Each bag is found in one of the seven compartments, encouraging you to open the bag and dump in into that spot, so that’s what I did.
The biggest surprise for me was the lack of a traditional instruction booklet! This set is more like the Go Brick Me set, in that it gives detailed directions to build the base, and a few examples for how to decorate each picture frame.
I was most fond of the Sheep face, so that’s what I built first. I am pleased to report that the sheepish face is easily recognizable; our 21-month old son said “BAAA” when I showed it to him.
While you are encouraged to create your own designs, there are at least two suggestions for each color:
- 194Medium Stone GreyLight Bluish Gray: Cat/Raccoon.
- 5Brick YellowTan: Dog/Bear/Beaver.
- 1White: Sheep/Dog.
I chose the Raccoon, Bear and Sheep. While the instructions encourage you to decorate the top and sides using abstract pastel patterns, I opted for realistic detailing on the top and sides using the extra tan, white and gray pieces. After building the three pcture holders, I have no pieces left in the central compartment, but hundreds of 1×1 Square and ¼ Circle tiles in an array of bright colors. If you need those pieces for a mosaic project, this would be a great parts pack.
Build time: 15 minutes.
#41904 Animal Picture Holders offers a low price point and a ton of pieces, but most of them will remain unused at the end of the project. If you can use them for something else, or re-decorate each of the picture holders several times, that’s not a bad thing, otherwise it’s kind of a waste.
I’m ultimately left with three small picture holders, but nothing all that substantial, and limited play functions. Yes, you can open each box, but the compartment is too small to put anything inside. Between the huge number of parts and less compelling build experience, it earns our Good (3/5 star) rating.
#41905 Rainbow Jewelry Stand
$14.99 (14.99€ / £12.99), 213 pieces in a Small Blue Dots Container, ages 6+. At $0.07 per piece, #41905 Rainbow Jewelry Stand offers half the pieces for the same price point than #41904 Animal Picture Holders. That’s probably because it includes a few more substantial pieces, including two of the new 9×9 Heart Plates.
Of the four sets, I was least excited by this one. I liked the cloud and rainbow motif, but the jewelery stand function did not appeal to me since I don’t own a lot of jewelery.
The build process is not lengthy, but it does take a few minutes to assemble the base and the Rainbow + Cloud module. The two modules are easily attached and removed because they are connected by two Technic Pins.
Most of the decorative pieces are intended for the rainbow. This felt like a constrained backdrop, so I decided to build on the rainbow motif with my braided rainbow pattern. I did not find this as fun to decorate as the Picture Frame or Desk Organizer, but it does leave some room for creativity.
Build time: 45 minutes.
#41905 Rainbow Jewelry Stand is less open-ended than the Picture Frame or Desk Organizer, but still allows some room for creative expression. I like the brightly-colored rainbow connecting the clooud to the ground, but the bright colors constrain the creative opportunities in decorating the model.
This set is an easy sell if you know a child who would love to build a jewelery stand. While it isn’t an exceptionally good value, it is fairly priced, especially given the inclusion of eight shiny 298Cool Silver, Drum LacqueredMetallic Silver parts. That’s why it also earns our Good (3/5 star) rating.
#41907 Desk Organizer
$19.99 (19.99€ / £17.99), 405 pieces in a Large Yellow Dots Container, ages 6+. #41907 Desk Organizer comes in at $0.05 per piece, although the pieces in DOTS sets are small.
As with all of the other Dots sets reviewed today, there are seven unnumbered bags in this set, corresponding to the seven compartments in the storage container. A large one-page instruction sheet offers instructions to build the desk organizer on one side, and a dozen decorating ideas on the other side.
The box itself is very basic, relying on one row of 1×2×2 Bricks in White rather than two rows of more useful classic 1× bricks. The drawer is somewhat strangely designed, using 1× Panels around the top edge, even though they don’t offer any additional storage space due to the smaller 4×4 aperture for the rest of the drawer. I also think that putting two 2×4 Tiles on the bottom of the drawer would have been a nice touch to make it feel more finished.
The sets appeal for some (and challenge for me) is the bubblegum pastel palette offered to decorate the 321Dark AzurDark Azure exterior. The four colors provide to decorate the box are 1White, 222Light PurpleBright Pink, 106Bright OrangeOrange, and 353Vibrant CoralCoral.
I chose to draw inspiration from Native American weaving from the southwest, which utilize bold colors and angular geometric patterns. Naturally, I had to practice a degree of abstraction since the set includes1/4 round tiles instead of 45° angle tiles.
I am pleased with the pattern that I settled on, but ultimately disappointed by the color palette. (I didn’t use the 106Bright OrangeOrange color at all, since I feel like it clashes horribly with 353Vibrant CoralCoral.)
Build time: 10 minutes, box, 40 minutes, decorating.
This is a less appealing set than the similarly priced Picture Frames, since more of the part count is used on the Desk Organizer itself, and less attention is paid to the decorative options. Having only four instead of six colors to decorate the box limits the creative options, especially when three of the four colors are tonally similar pastels.
That’s why #41907 Desk Organizer earns the lowest rating of the bunch, Acceptable (2/5 stars). That’s too bad, since the larger canvas is great for creating more complex patterns than what’s possible on the 2-stud border of #41914 Creative Picture Frames. (It’s also not a bad parts pack if you like these colors!)
#41914 Creative Picture Frames
$19.99 (19.99€ / £17.99), 398 pieces in a Large Yellow Dots Container, ages 6+. #41914 Creative Picture Frames comes in at $0.05 per piece, which is a very good price, although like all of the DOTS sets, most of the pieces are small. In contrast to the #41904 Animal Picture Holders, this set fully surrounds your pictures, which is why the set includes several large plates: 2x 6×10 in 26Black, 2x 6×10 in 353Vibrant CoralCoral, and 1x 8×8 in 325Lavender.
As with all of the other Dots sets reviewed today, there are seven unnumbered bags in this set, corresponding to the seven compartments in the picture frame. Diving into the large one-page instruction sheet, we get instructions to build the frames on one side, and decorating ideas on the other side.
All three frames have a 2-stud wide border. The smallest has an opening that is just 4×4, the medium one has an opening that’s 6×8, and the large one has an opening that’s 6×10. How you decide to decorate each frame is up to you, and a ton of 1×1 square and ¼ Round Tiles are provided in six different colors!
Build time: 10 minutes frames, 30 minutes decorating.
I quite enjoyed the challenge of decorating each of the three picture frames. The selection of colors offered to decorate the frames really helped here, since we get some high contrast options like Black and White, plus a diverse range of pastels.
That’s why #41914 Creative Picture Frames earns a better rating than some of the other sets reviewed here, Very good (4/5 Stars). I do still think that they could have made it easier to swap out the photos in the frame, or measure and print/cut your own photos to fit, though!
Adding the dimensions (in Inches and Centimeters) for all three of the openings would really make the instruction booklet better for parents trying to help young kids with this project!