Rebranding of Oxegen, an iconic old Irish music festival.
NOTE: This is a hypothetical brand awareness campaign for Lego, I have not actually worked with The Lego Group organisation.
So, I was delighted when the answer to the above question was presented to me one evening as I walked into Bangkok’s Design Center. The bricks that created the road’s edge reminded me of Lego bricks and the building entrance at the time was decorated with a large poster for Pride month, so I took this as the brief:
Conduct a brand awareness campaign for Lego to celebrate social diversity.
I was really excited by the idea since Lego is - in my own opinion - the greatest toy of all time. But it’s been many years since my days were spent lost among mountains of Lego pieces, so it was time to do a little digging and get this project started!
— The LEGO Group
As a personal project, I knew that I could easily let weeks and months slip by if I didn’t set some sort of deadline. So I decided that 4 was a good target to set. This happened to straddle the end of my experience living in Thailand and the start of a welcome stretch living at home in Ireland. So, I dedicated my last week in Bangkok to the research phase and then spent the remaining 3 weeks developing the concept, building assets and running a pilot for the project.
I have a lot of experience working with younger people, but mainly with adolescents. The last time I had a serious conversation with a 7 year old, I was 7. So I needed to call in some reinforcements. I know a lot of primary school teachers, so I reached out and organised interviews to gain insights about working with children. I also organised calls with people I know who have children of their own between 5 and 9 years old. Here are some of the key take-aways from conversations with 6 primary school teachers and 5 parents:
Use story-telling as a tool to connect and engage with the young participants.
Target 5 to 8 year olds who are innocent, open-minded, willing to talk and less influenced by other kids.
Don’t depend on parents to initiate and facilitate the project with their children. To improve parental engagement, ensure instructions are clear and resources are easily accessible.
Running the project through schools rather than households means reaching more children and provides schools with a valuable tool to address a problem that is often neglected or avoided.
— Primary school teacher, interviewee.
You can’t force a conversation, but you can spark a conversation. So, I’ve called this campaign “Lego Spark”. The idea is that, like a physical spark can grow into a roaring flame, we can spark an ongoing conversation that can grow and continue through time and through more people.
Lego sparks conversation with kids about discrimination by introducing them to the start of a story and inviting them to create the ending.
The story’s introduction is a stop-motion animation created using Lego figures. The children are invited to create their version of the ending of the story by also using stop motion animation. The crucial part of this campaign lies on the discussion held between the children and teachers (or guardians) after they’ve watched the story’s introduction and before they’ve imagined its conclusion.
By using the schooling system as the primary means for reaching out to the young participants, we are maximising outreach, utilising resources and facilities, helping teachers and leveraging trust with parents.
Everything associated with the Lego Sparks campaign that you might want or need can be found on our website. Here you can learn more, seek help and support (technical or emotional), get inspired, and upload creations.
It’s not only important that the conversations that this campaign aims to spark are started, but also that they are ongoing. The goal is to run Lego Spark annually, each year introducing a new story for the children to complete. This creates the potential to develop existing characters over a series of narratives and to introduce new ones.
Running the project annually fits the annual nature of the academic calendar. Students’ increasing familiarity with the characters and concept each year would leverage the work done in the initial roll-out. The Lego Spark website would ultimately host a whole series of videos with in-depth character development and meaningful morals. Schools and students would have their own accounts where they could access their previous project submissions.
I was recently reminded of how much I used to love my Aunty Roisin’s storytelling when I overheard her entertaining a couple of her grandkids with a terrifying tale that she was making up on the spot. I asked Aunty Roisin to share some of the stories she tells her grandkids with me to use as a source of inspiration to get the Lego Spark story started. She equipped me with tonnes of great content, so much so that the challenge wasn’t writing the story, but cutting it down to a length I could fit into a less-than-three-minute stop motion animation.
I needed to make it as easy as possible for teachers and parents to access the videos, find information about the project, look for both emotional and technical support and submit their children's creations. The obvious and best solution is a website which can achieve all of the above.
The site’s structure is really simple. All 3 pages are accessible through a global navigation that also includes access to open an overlay form for submitting children’s creations.
Instruction (or “Getting Started”) page features:
Support page features:
I wanted the visual design of the Lego Spark site to very much communicate that you’re in the world of lego.
I used the traditional Lego yellow as the primary accent colour and used circular buttons with a solid drop-shadow to mimic the iconic little raised cylinders that hold Lego bricks together. I combined the classic tumbling block pattern with the idea of the lego brick to create a subtle background pattern which I used on all pages and in the Lego Spark campaign video advertisement.
Since the intended users for the website are in fact the teachers/guardians of the children and not the children themselves, I wanted to use a font that had a balance of functional and clean while maintaining Lego’s sense of fun and play. I feel like my combination of fonts from the EFFRA family for headings and body text achieves this nicely.
So, a lot of time and effort went into the writing of the story’s introduction and the production of a stop motion animation, the question was whether it would, in fact, be effective as a tool to spark meaningful conversations with children about discrimination. It was time to put it to the test, and so I ran a small pilot of the project. My mother’s friend has 2 sons, a 7 and an 9 year old, who I invited over “to my stop-motion studio to play with some Lego”. And so that’s what we did.
I was delighted with how the pilot went. I had a great time working with the lads and it was clear that they had a great time too. The question is, how did the discussion go after introducing them to the story of Sully, Brock and Belle? Here are some highlights:
— Participant in 1st pilot
When I let my imagination run wild with this idea, I envisage a team of in-house Lego designers working together with Stop Motion Studio to run this as an annual competition in schools across the globe. Children would develop a fondness for the stories of Sully, Brock and Belle and remember them as being at the root of many meaningful discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion. I imagine certain students would develop an interest in stop motion animation (I guess I would have been one of them). I imagine the Lego Spark website to be fully evolved into a platform dedicated to the initiation of difficult conversations with children.
The biggest take away from this project was kind of a back-handed lesson. By not having a team to work with or a mentor to offer guidance, I learned the value of working on a team of people with a range of strengths who also offer varying points of view. Of course, it would have been nice to have a sound designer to work on the sounds for the videos, a stop-motion animator to work on the stop-motion, a video producer to work on the advertisement, a photographer to work on the website assets - the list goes on and on - but what I really missed was having more heads to bounce ideas off and to build and strengthen the concept.
I also believe there’s a massive difference between knowledge and understanding that people often underestimate. Knowing that design can often be improved by simplifying it is one thing, but understanding how to simplify it is another. Before this project I knew that it’s important to give the research phase of the project as much time as possible, and having resisted temptations to cut it short and dive into an Illustrator file, I have developed a better understanding of this fact. I knew that sound and audio play an enormous role in the viewer’s experience of a video and I knew that deadlines are important because we can always come up with more ideas and improve the standards of certain deliverables but I have developed a deeper understanding of these facts too.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with how the project panned out. The many hours spent playing with Lego were the most enjoyable and the time spent working with my 2 young guinea pigs was the most rewarding. I would love to spend some time developing my own skills in areas I can see low quality in the execution, but it’s time to move on, scrub up, and apply these lessons to the next project.