November 2022 LEGO News Roundup
November went big — featuring the tallest LEGO set, updated look at the most common LEGO parts, an exclusive interview with LEGO Masters USA Season 3 contestants, and honoring the biggest ally of the AFOL community.
This month was dominated by writing several LEGO set reviews, but one of them loomed a lot taller than the others. I hope you had a chance to read my extremely detailed and critical look at the new #10307 Eiffel Tower set. We also looked at two much smaller gift-with-purchase sets. (You will receive both for free if you buy the Eiffel Tower soon).
Beyond reviewing new LEGO sets, I finally published a sprawling interview of almost the entire LEGO Masters USA Season 3 cast. This was the result of more than two months of research, interviews with them via Zoom, meeting many of them at BrickCon in October, and a written interview. To make the story even better, many of them included great photos to bring their personal stories to life.
Most Common LEGO Parts
I’ve also updated my popular Most Common LEGO Parts article to reflect (most of) the sets released this year. I love doing this analysis about once a year, as it gives me insight into specific parts that are gaining or losing popularity over time, but also broader trends within the LEGO ecosystem of parts.
Here are a few of the trends I’ve observed this year:
- The rising popularity of tiny pieces.
- Decreasing emphasis on basic bricks and plates.
- Possible decrease in popularity of Technic parts.
- Blossoming popularity of plant pieces.
- Stable popularity for SNOT pieces.
It was also interesting to observe the impact of a single set on the rankings; #10307 Eiffel Tower alone is responsible for doubling the popularity of one part: Bar 2L w/ Stop (part 78258).
Be sure to take a deeper dive into the Most Common LEGO Parts, and let me know what you see in the data!
One Last Chat with AFOL Advocate Tormod Askildsen
This month, BrickNerd published a story so big that it took three articles to tell — Are Heiseldal conducted an extensive interview with one of the most pivotal figures in The LEGO Group’s evolution to embrace their Adult Fans. I encourage you to read the whole article, but wanted to highlight a few excerpts from this lengthy discussion following his retirement after 39 years at the company.
In the first part, I enjoyed learning that he only landed at The LEGO Group because his wife got a job in Billund and he found a marketing role in the LEGO DACTA (now LEGO Education) department in 1983. His involvement with very early LEGO robotics products for the Education market will become a lot more relevant when we jump forward to his involvement in LEGO Mindstorms which shipped in 1998. (You will find several interestng anecdotes about the Mindstorm days in part 1 of the BrickNerd Article.)
These people, you see, were doing things that we were not so happy about—modifying the source code, developing their own software and so on. So our plan was to explain to them why they could not do that!
The relevant part for the AFOL community is what happened next: They discovered that a huge number of Mindstorms sets were being purchased by Adults, and they discovered that some very enterprising fans had reverse-engineered the software. The decision to fight these ‘hackers’ or embrace them was not obvious at the time, but the ultimate decision to learn from them rather than fight them planted the seeds for future engagement between the company and Adult fans.
Soon thereafter, Tormod became involved in LEGO Direct, a precursor to LEGO Ideas where models designed by AFOLs were turned into real LEGO Sets. By 2002, they had created an internal document about “LEGO Enthusiast Communities”.
Our white paper was basically about what the fan community was, what we could do, what we thought we should not do, and what they wanted and needed. Plus, why were they even there, and who were they, really?
The second installment goes on to explain how a comic book titled “AFOLs” was created to help LEGO Employees understand the growing audience of Adult consumers. It also touches on the genuine failure to validate the changes to light and dark gray with the AFOL community, and the very first LEGO Inside Tour.
In 2000, [Christina Hitchcock] organised the first BrickFest—at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.—and to me, that is the first time a real AFOL event came together.
The bulk of the second article is about both the organic ways that the AFOL community grew (such as the BrickFest in 2000), as well as the ways that The LEGO Group helped learn from the AFOL community through programs like the LEGO Ambassador program. This chapter wraps up with a lengthy discussion of the companies challenges in 2005, and how Jørgen Vig Knudstorp took over the helm from Kjeld and helped steer the company to a better place — and how the AFOL community helped inform their strategy.
Internally, people were referring to fans as ‘nerds’. They said they wanted to market LEGO products to ‘ordinary’ people as well, ordinary kids and adults.
In the third installment, we learn how the failure of Galidor led the company to look harder at their original audience of kids as well. Fortunately, they were able to show that LEGO building products appealed to a broad cross-section of kids, and the same was true for many of their adult fans as well. In fact, they leaned in to those adult builders again in 2006 to launch more fan-designed sets under the LEGO Factory branding.
It was a personal high for me when the target group was extended to include adults, and the 18+ portfolio was introduced.
Book: The LEGO Story
The interviews with Tormod discussed above dovetail nicely with something else I’m reading right now — The newly released book The LEGO Story: How a Little Toy Sparked the World’s Imagination.
I’m only halfway through the book, but I’m especially enjoying hearing a lot more of Kjeld’s voice in the latter chapters. (Author Jens Andersen had ‘unlimited’ acess to the LEGO Group vault and to third generation family owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen when writing the book.) Full review to follow, but so far I’m finding that the book strikes a unique balance between a history, a biography, and a business text.
- The LEGO Story, by Jens Andersen (Hardcover)
The book was first released in 2021 in Danish (as ‘Et liv med LEGO’), but the English-language version was just released this month. It is a premium volume with a bright yellow dustjacket. Inside, you will find color photos interspersed throughout the book.
418 pages, $32.50 MSRP, available now at Amazon
- The LEGO Story, by Jens Andersen (audiobook)
While the hardcover book is gorgeous, I also purchased the audiobook version at Audible/Amazon. The Audiobook is a no-compromises option; It is read by an excellent narrator (that also teaches you how to pronounce Danish names and roads) and includes a PDF containing the same images included in the print edition.
11 hours, 50 minnutes. $27.94, available now at Amazon / Audible.
- Other options? You can also purchase the book as a Kindle Ebook, or an Audio CD at Amazon.com website or your favorite local bookstore.
New at Brick Architect
- Interview: Learning from the LEGO Masters USA Season 3 contestants
LEGO Masters contestants are serious LEGO enthusiasts with a lot more backstory than fits on the FOX TV show. Let’s learn more about them — and their love of the LEGO brick.
- Review: #10307 Eiffel Tower
The tallest LEGO set ever produced is arguably the largest LEGO set ever created when you consider the overall volume. But can it possibly be worth the $630 price or the time commitment — and where will you put it?
- Review: #40579 Eiffel’s Apartment
Whether you want to learn about this gift-with-purchase set or you just want a sneak peek at building the gigantic Eiffel Tower set, we’ve got you covered!
- Review: #40563 Tribute to LEGO House
A decent-sized gift-with-purchase based on five rare LEGO sets that you can only buy at The LEGO House in Billund — but what’s the point when visiting Billund is out of reach for most LEGO fans?
- Updated for 2022: Most Common LEGO Parts
I particularly enjoy learning about parts which are gaining popularity over time, as well as those which are slowly fading to obscurity.
I also wanted to mention that my next update to LEGO Brick Labels is coming soon. In the process of updating my Most Common LEGO Parts article, I’ve already created about two dozen labels for parts which have gained enough popularity to be in the top 1200 most common parts. The final update will likely include even more new labels!
MOC of the Month
Some of the best photos of LEGO models not only include technical wizardry, but manage to capture motion within a still image. Okay Yaramanoglu brought an amazing LEGO to life by carefully editing in the perfect backdrop and the illusion of smoke and propeller movement.
Upon a closer look, you might notice that the bottom of the model is built upside-down, with a raised baseplate carefully attached to the underside of the building. “The biggest challenge was stability as I needed to figure out how to balance such a large MOC on a small point, which is why I decided to use a cloud as a stand.” Further, Okay explains “you will notice details like the gutters for collecting water and the small vegetable garden in the back for food.”
Best articles from around the web
Here are some highlights this month from around the web – Happy reading!
- 10307 Eiffel Tower: Designer interview with Rok Žgalin Kobe
In this video interview, we learn that the gigantic new Eiffel tower set is roughly the same scale as #xxx Statue of Liberty and #xxx Titanic. I also enjoyed learning about several of this design details from the designer himself. Lastly, we learn that 10,000 bricks was not the original goal, but they nudged it over the line when they got so close to that number.
—New Elementary (via YouTube)
The parts are weird, but are designed by talented designers and produced by LEGO standards … There is not much to build, but once assembled, the playability is very high if you like action figures.
The seals on them are not waterproof. … in the event of an unudation with floodwaters, they cannot be relied on to keep your elements clean and dry.
Our friends at BrickNerd not only published the epic 3-part article about Tormod that I featured at the top, but shared a wealth of other great content this month. Why so much awesome content? Chief Nerd Dave Schefcik explained to me that they have been saving some of their nerdiest content for this month — Hope you had a happy NerdVember!
This month I’ve highlighted episodes from podcasts that I don’t usually highlight, because they managed to touch on the LEGO Hobby, toys in general, and the role of product reviews. Enjoy.
Brick Architect in the news
- How some of the Season 3 USA contestants organize their LEGO Collections
My interviews with LEGO Masters USA Season 3 contestants were popular on Reddit, especially in this post on r/LegoStorage which focused on how the contestants store their own LEGO parts.
The interview was also highlighted on r/LegoMasters