In-depth interviews with Jamie Berard on Modular Buiding series and Creator Expert!

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I had so much fun interviewing Jamie Berard about Creator Expert and the Modular Building Series earlier this year.  It's rare to get an opportunity to get inside the minds of the creative genius designers at LEGO, so I thought you might enjoy some selected highlights from the interview.  The interview was split into the following two parts:

Highlights from: ɪɴᴛᴇʀᴠɪᴇᴡ: Modular Building Series with Jamie Berard

In this interview, we discussed how Downtown Diner, and Parisian Restauraunt represented two major turning points in the series...

Jamie Berard: "Some people would say there are two stages of the modular, with #10243 Parisian Restaurant starting the second expression because we put more detail inside the building and focused a bit more on storytelling. As we approached the 10 year mark, we needed to be careful that we didn’t stay on auto-pilot, where it becomes too familiar and people can just predict the next one."

I surprised that one of the earlier sets wasn't very well received initially:

Jamie Berard: "I remember when we did the #10197 Fire Brigade. That one was not very well received in that people were horrified that it was too American; ... They said that the flag is hideous, although that I appreciate that and agree... Then they said it only has two floors, and everybody knows the modular have three floors. They had already defined in their mind what it should be."

We also got a chance to talk about how Creator Expert helped bring Teal back...

Jamie Berard: "We considered Medium Azure and some other blues. All of these complement the Dark Pink color we wanted to use for the convertible in this set. ... we thought this set was a nice way to bring teal back, and bring it back with a quantity of bricks.

We also talked about storytelling (ex: money laundering), and highlights his two favorite sets in the series! Link to full interview.

Highlights from: ɪɴᴛᴇʀᴠɪᴇᴡ: LEGO Creator Expert with Jamie Berard

Since my passion is LEGO Architecture, we talked at length about the large Architecture models (like Big Ben) in the Creator Expert series. I asked how they pick which buildings to create as sets:

Jamie Berard: "It is harder for us to accomplish contemporary, clean architecture in a large model, because of our target audience is adults. ... If you try to re-create any of the well-known architecture that is too minimalist ... in a LEGO version it comes across a bit naïve ... On the flip side, there’s a lot of great classic architecture that you can imagine in LEGO and know it’s gonna be great. I’d say anything “old world” looks great in LEGO because we have a lot of opportunities for details, texture, implying different stonework or materials."

I was surprised to hear that they struggle to wrap there heads around what deserves the "Creator Expert" label.

Jamie Berard: "But how do you perceive what makes it Expert? This is an internal question we are trying to resolve…"

We also learned which building in the Creator Expert was most challenging to get right, and might have still been a bit disappointing in the end.  It was fun hearing how much enthusiasm he has about his work, something you may have already noticed when watching his Designer Videos.  Link to full interview.



P.S. For practical reasons, these were just a few of my favorite excerpts from the full interviews at brickarchitect.com website.  I hope you enjoyed the stories behind these great LEGO sets!

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I forgot to ask—What was the most interesting thing you learned in these interviews?  (I'm always trying to learn how to ask better questions.)

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Awesome interviews!

As a modular fan I naturally gravitate to the information regarding the buildings, but there is plenty of other information that I was still fascinated by. The parts where Jamie talks about the workflow, atmosphere and collaboration of the designers (such as the Boost Events, the sugar ban, how the designers work together) really provide an extra layer of insight that makes me appreciate the sets in a new unique way. The favorite elements question was also interesting, especially when Jamie promises more interesting new parts in the near future :)  . The conversation between you and Jamie about architectural influences in the landmark series, and how that became a discussion about complexity and Jamies experience with the Taj Mahal was a good read as well.

With the buildings, I sometimes find myself staring at my (now complete!) modular building collection on a lazy day, trying to figure out some of the backstory or discussions the designers must have had when building the products. So whenever there is insight about anything modular building related I am excited to read that. The fact that the bakery used to be a candy shop and the way they think up characters was some neat information. I was surprised about the sugar-ban backstory of the detectives office, I had always assumed that the sweets were substitutes for alcohol and nothing more. It's nice to see the designers having fun and being inspired by the world around them. I was also surprised to hear that the fire brigade got a substantial amount of flak for shaking things up (similar to the reception of the change of architectural styles in the cinema and diner). I started collecting in 2010 with the grand emporium and green grocer, so I wasn't around for the 2009 reveal. For me, the series had always been a mix of Europe and America, and I never considered that collectors from 2007-2008 would be shocked by the change of setting (and deviation from a 3 floor standard). It gets me thinking as well; I wonder if they will ever experiment with a four floored building?

There weren't any questions or segments of the interview that seemed too trivial to be interesting, I was engaged the entire time so I'm pretty sure that means you're doing great. :)
I also like that you broke up the segments of text with relevant set images, the formatting helped make it easy and fun to read.
Both you and Jamie were excellent. :thumbup:

Edited by Overcold

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Fantastic interview.   The flag in 10197 was always puzzling:  it looks like the original flag of the Confederate States of America with the three two-stud tall red and white stripes.    You would think an American flag in that scale would have six alternating red and white stripes one stud thick instead.   There is a modified 10197 appearing in The Lego Movie and the flag has been modified to be pale blue with a white stripe in the center like the flag of Chicago.

A four-floored building is at least 33% more expensive than a three-story building and would be a bit taller than the others.  I think it could work, however.   Modular is partially about subverting expectations and overcoming design challenges using the elements Lego gives you.    The closest thing we have to a four-story building is the Town Hall with its clock tower, and that one was designed by Astrid instead of Jamie, I think.   

Edited by CopperTablet
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A most excellent interview @henrysunset, I'm glad I finally found the time to go back and read it after initially seeing it posted here earlier this week! :thumbup: :sweet:

I mean, dang, I really wish I knew then of this interview opportunity of yours, as I submitted a few other burning questions of mine to various other fan sites at the time precluding the Media Fan Days event, including over at @Jim's questionnaire topic linked below:


On 7/26/2018 at 3:24 AM, henrysunset said:

I forgot to ask—What was the most interesting thing you learned in these interviews?  (I'm always trying to learn how to ask better questions.)

In the first part regarding the Expert line overall, I thought the questions pertaining to choosing an architectural style and Jamie's favorite Lego element were the most interesting to me; while for the second part focusing on the Modular Building line specifically, the discussion regarding Dark Turquoise was most enlightening. :classic:

For that matter, if the opportunity arises again next year, here are a few select questions I submitted to other sites for potential interviews with the Creator Expert team that perhaps you could consider for the future:

  • What advice could be given to AFOLs who are creating architectural LEGO Ideas projects, particularly regarding on how to keep minifig-scaled ones from clashing with the Modular Building line?
  • Like the recently resurrected Dark Turquoise, are there any discontinued colors you hope or wish to see revived? Furthermore, do you feel that there are any gaps in the spectrum on Lego's color palette that could be filled?
  • Is there a particular architectural style you've perhaps taken a liking to that you wish to see adopted by the modular building line in the future?
  • What type of set would you really hope to design someday? 
  • Have non-D2C (a.k.a Direct to Consumer) sets for the Expert theme ever been considered before in the past? Do you feel that more affordable Expert series sets sold on a retailer wide basis could ever be a possibility in the future?
  • Does the Creator Expert theme have the same access to automobile licenses which the Speed Champions theme has? Are there any particular automobiles brands that are off-limits to the theme that aren't to other set lines?
  • Was the rollercoaster track system designed for the Creator Expert set, the Joker Manor, or for no specific set in particular?
  • How did the Creator Expert subtheme come to be? What was the reasoning for the placement of the "Advanced" line as a subtheme of Creator back in 2013?
  • How well acquainted are you with the work of set designers and/or design teams assigned to the development of other themes and product lines? Is each design team's work-in-development kept confidential from other design teams?
  • Given the broad nature of the Creator theme as a whole, understandably, the line can cover a wide range of subjects as source material for sets. But, is there any theme or subject that the Creator theme couldn't or wouldn't possibly ever cover? If so, why?


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Great interview - thanks for conducting and sharing it!

The most interesting thing I learned ... probably how much the Modular line seems to come down to the whim / feelings of the designer. I guess I'd always thought that Lego would have had some kind of a long-term plan for the line (i.e. some core "every city has one" buildings for inclusion, for example, fire station, police station and hospital / medical centre). But, it sounds as if a lot of it comes down to a single idea or theme from the designer (e.g. Assembly Square was simply "sweet shop and dentist" or the Diner was "a diner and gym").

I did like hearing that Lego listens to all the feedback from AFOLs about the Modular line, even if they don't always do something about it. The fact that they're open to moving away from "small" rooms (or at least small for adult sized hands) is good to hear.

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