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kottke.org posts about Legos

Lego Versions of Iconic Album Covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2021

album cover for Nirvana's Nevermind built with Lego bricks

album cover for Madonna's True Blue built with Lego bricks

album cover for Radiohead's The Bends built with Lego bricks

album cover for Janet Jackson's Janet built with Lego bricks

Check out these iconic album covers rendered in Lego by Adnan Lotia on Instagram. (thx, jenni)

App Helps You Build New Creations from Your Existing Lego Pile

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

screenshots of the Brickit app

A new iOS app called Brickit has been developed to breathe new life into your old Lego pile. Just dump your bricks out into a pile and the app will analyze what Lego bricks you have, what new creations you can build with them, and provide you with detailed build instructions. It can even guide you to find individual pieces in the pile. View a short demo — I’m assuming they’re using some sort of AI/machine learning to do this?

My kids have approximately a billion Legos at my house, so I downloaded Brickit to try it out. The process is a little slow and you need to do a little bit of pre-sorting (by taking out the big pieces and spreading your pile out evenly), but watching the app do its thing is kinda magical. When I have more time later, I’m definitely going to go back and try to build some of the ideas it found for me. (via @marcprecipice)

Relaxing White Noise Album Made with Lego Bricks

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2021

I’m always on the lookout for sounds that help you focus and/or relax; I’ve collected a number of video soundscapes here. If you happen to find the sounds of Lego bricks relaxing, you can add these videos to your routine:

The first one features the sound of Legos being poured and the second one is the sound of someone digging through the Lego bin & snapping pieces together. The full 3.5-hour album of Lego sounds is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.

Here’s the company’s press release and a behind-the-scenes look at the album’s production from The Guardian.

The project was devised by Lego’s “head of creative” Primus Manokaran, who describes the streaming-only album as “a collection of soundscapes” designed to promote relaxation and mindfulness. Although the seven tracks, which each run to half an hour in length, are different in their granular details, essentially they were made by Lego pieces being poured out of tubs, sifted through and clicked together.

Manokaran’s team began thinking about why people love Lego during lockdown, and realised that a big hook was how it sounds. Inspired by the online craze for white noise as an aid to relaxation and focus, they began recording. “The acoustic properties of each brick was slightly different,” he says. “It was like composing with 10,000 tiny instruments.”

(thx, martin)

Building Black: Ekow Nimako’s All-Black Lego Sculptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2021

Ekow Nimako's Lego artwork

Ekow Nimako's Lego artwork

Ekow Nimako's Lego artwork

Ekow Nimako's Lego artwork

For his series called Building Black, Ekow Nimako uses only black Lego pieces to build fantastical and futuristic sculptures based on West African masks, folklore, and medieval kingdoms. From Colossal:

Running through each of these artworks is a fluid understanding of time and space that blurs the distinction between generations, locations, and histories in order to imagine a new reality. “We are all living proof of our ancestors, all their joy, love, knowledge, and pain. They live in our DNA,” the Ghanaian-Canadian artist says. “Aesthetically, I enjoy taking elements from bygone eras and creating futuristic landscapes, particularly of African utopias to imagine a liberated existence for us all.”

That blurred temporality that foregrounds his sculptures and installations parallels his own trajectory, as well. “My art practice developed when I was four years old, as I constantly told myself I want to do this (play with LEGO) forever, and sometimes it feels as though my future self communicated with my past self, astrally perhaps, to ensure this very specific destiny manifested,” he says, noting that the plastic blocks have remained a fixture in both his personal and professional life since becoming a father.

Vice did a short video feature on Nimako and his work:

(via colossal)

Stop Motion Lego Chocolate Cake

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2021

Watch as YouTuber tomosteen makes a Lego chocolate cake out of Lego ingredients, from cracking the eggs to the frosting on top. The little details here are *chef’s kiss*: the transitions from food to Lego brick, the way the chocolate bar breaks imperfectly, the little peaky dollop left after piping the chocolate frosting out of the pastry bag.

Don’t care for chocolate cake? How about a Japanese breakfast (featuring tamagoyaki) or churros instead?

See also Lego In Real Life or search for Lego in real life on YouTube. (via colossal)

A Lego-Illustrated Guide to Covid-19 Variants

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2021

This guide to Covid-19 variants (SARS-CoV-2 viruses that have evolved changes to meaningfully alter their behavior) by Michaeleen Doucleff and Meredith Rizzo at NPR cleverly visualizes how mutations of the virus’s spike proteins help bind it more easily to ACE2 receptors on human cells. The key to the visualization is Meredith Miotke’s illustrations of the viruses using Lego pieces to represent the virus spikes and cell receptors. The usual SARS-CoV-2 has 1x1 Lego pieces that can bind with 1x2 pieces, like so:

Covid-19 variants illustrated through Lego

But, as everyone who has ever worked with a Lego set knows, a 1x1 piece stuck to a 1x2 piece is not super stable. So when a version of the virus with a 1x2 piece shows up, it’s able to form a better connection to the 1x2 receptor:

Covid-19 variants illustrated through Lego

The analogy breaks down if you look too hard at it1 but for many people, it can be a quick way to get the gist of the mechanism at work here. (via @EricTopol)

  1. This is a huge pet peeve of mine when people try to poke holes in analogies: by definition, all analogies break down if you examine them too deeply. An analogy is a comparison of two different things that are similar in significant respects. If they were the same in every respect, it’s not an analogy…you’d just be describing one thing.

Lego Version of Hokusai’s Iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 14, 2020

Lego Version of Hokusai's Iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Lego Version of Hokusai's Iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Jumpei Mitsui, the youngest-ever Lego Certified Professional, has created a Lego version of Hokusai’s iconic woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The Great Wave is perhaps the most recognizable (and most covered) Japanese artwork in the world. Mitsui’s Lego rendering is composed of 50,000 pieces and took 400 hours to build. From Spoon & Tamago:

In ensuring that his 3D lego replica not only payed homage to the original but also captured the dynamics of crashing waves, Mitsui says he read several academic papers on giant wave formations, as well as spent hours on YouTube watching video of waves.

You can check out the Lego Great Wave in person at the Hankyu Brick Museum in Osaka.

The User Experience Design of Lego Interface Panels

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

Lego Console Interfaces

I thought George Cave’s The UX of LEGO Interface Panels was going to be a fun distraction, but it’s actually a great layperson’s explanation, using familiar Lego pieces, of how interfaces work in the real world and the design considerations that go into building them.

Shape coding is one approach to differentiation, but there are many others. Colour coding is perhaps the only one to break into our everyday vocabulary, but we can add four more: size, texture, position and operation coding. Together these six are our allies in the design of error-proof interfaces.

Size, shape and colour-coding are the fundamentals: quick-wins that can fix a lot of interface problems. Texture is also a great differentiator for blind operation, particularly on small dials requiring precise control.

(via sidebar)

Lego Nintendo Entertainment System

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Lego set of the Nintendo Entertainment System

As a child of the 80s, this Lego set of the Nintendo Entertainment System activates a very ancient and primal region of my brain. As you can see in this short video, the set includes a controller, a cartridge that you can put into the machine, and a vintage TV with a hand-crank that you can use to “play” Super Mario Bros.

Build Your Own Magically Floating Lego Tensegrity Sculpture

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2020

Ok, take a look at this short video of a Lego structure. Whaaaaat kind of sorcery is this?!

The top part of the structure appears to be floating, held aloft by plastic chains seemingly incapable of supporting the load. This is an example of a tensegrity sculpture, in which tension (and not compression) is used to carry weight.

If you want to build your own, the instructions and parts list are available and you can watch this tutorial as well:

(via colossal)

A Lego Justin Trudeau Talks to Children About the Covid-19 Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

During a press conference last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent a couple of minutes talking directly to the nation’s children, acknowledging their hardships and role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Tyler Walsh and his two sons spent a week making this Lego stop motion animation of Trudeau’s address, something that kids might be more likely to watch.

In an interview with the CBC, Walsh described their process:

“[It took] a fair amount of time and hundreds and hundreds of photos,” he said.

Each working to their strengths, Walsh said the kids were primarily in charge of piecing together the Lego elements — such as a podium, as well as hair and a bearded head for Trudeau — to bring the set to life.

“I would have questions for them like, ‘I need a sad kid. Do we have any sad kid Lego heads?’”

Trudeau himself responded to the Lego version of his address:

This is really great, Tyler. I think my kids — and a whole lot of others — will get a kick out of this, all while hearing how they can help out too. Thanks for helping spread that message.

(via @auntmaureen)

Lego Frida Kahlo

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 12, 2019

Lego Frida

Behold a Lego portrait of Frida Kahlo made by visual artist Karen Cantú Q. She was inspired by Marco Sodano’s Lego portraits made for the company — you’ve likely seen his Mona Lisa but I’m partial to the van Gogh.

Lego Van Gogh

Lego In Real Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2019

BrickBrosProductions makes stop motion animated films featuring Lego bricks. Their most popular video is a compilation of the three short films in their “Lego In Real Life” series, where objects built from Lego interact with the real world — Lego butter, Lego apples, Lego pencils, and Lego wood.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes of the woodworking movie as well as a general tutorial about how to make Lego stop motion videos.

Music Video Shot from the Front of a Toy Lego Train

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2019

The music video for Anna Meredith’s latest song, Paramour, is a single-take journey of a toy Lego train through a group of musicians playing cellos, drums, and tubas, from the perspective of a camera mounted on the front of the train. This has some definite Star Guitar + Wallace & Gromit vibes. (via colossal)

Life-Sized Lego Electronics

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2019

Brix System is a collection of scaled-up Lego versions of computers, phones, and music machines made out of wood. This is super nerdy and I am here for it.

See also A Full-Scale Lego Supercar that Actually Drives.

Lego Prosthetic Arms

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2019

19-year-old bioengineering major David Aguilar, aka Hand Solo, has built himself a series of prosthetic arms out of Lego. In this short video, he shows off some of the arms, including his latest 4th generation model:

He built his first Lego prosthetic limb when he was 18. According to this Reuters article, Aguilar names his arms using the same system as Iron Man uses for his armor suits (MK-1, MK-II, etc.) and wants to build low-cost prosthetics after he graduates from college.

A Full-Scale Lego Supercar that Actually Drives

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 30, 2018

Over the past few months, a team at Lego has been building a full-scale model of a Bugatti Chiron supercar using only Lego Technics pieces — aside from the wheels, tires, and a few other key components. They got the look of the car down, but the truly impressive thing is that the car actually drives, powered by an electric engine made up of over 2300 Power Function motors. The Lego press release has the details.

Bugatti Lego

The model is the first large scale movable construction developed using over 1,000,000 LEGO Technic elements and powered exclusively using motors from the LEGO Power Function platform. Packed with 2,304 motors and 4,032 LEGO Technic gear wheels, the engine of this 1.5 tonnes car is generating 5.3 horse power and an estimated torque of 92 Nm.

The doors open and close, the spoiler moves up and down, the headlights work, and the all-Lego speedometer works — what a goofy and amazing accomplishment. cc: my Lego- and supercar-loving son

Brutalist architecture built with Lego

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 18, 2018

Brutal Lego

Brutal Lego

Brutal Lego

The proprietor of the @brutsinlego account and his/her children build simple Brutalist structures out of Lego and post the results to Instagram.

BTW, the term Brutalist does not refer to the frequently brutal (adj. “direct and lacking any attempt to disguise unpleasantness”) appearance of buildings built in this style, but after the French term béton brut (raw concrete) that describes the unfinished concrete surfaces of these buildings.

Further BTW: Google Translate variously translates “brut” to “gross”, “raw”, “crude”, “undefined”, “dry”, and “rude”. Brut and brutal also likely have the same Latin root, so to some extent, the assumption that Brutalism refers to the blunt appearance of these buildings has some merit.

Cool custom Lego sets

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2018

Lego Computers

Lego Computers

Lego Computers

Chris McVeigh sells custom Lego sets of items like old computers, desks, video game consoles, and bonsai trees. Oh, and he does the insides of the computers too; here’s the innards of the Macintosh:

Lego Computers

See also my favorite custom Lego set, Stephen Hawking.

The original US patent drawing for the Lego brick, filed 60 years ago

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2018

Lego Patent

This is one of two drawings that accompanied Godtfred Kirk Christiansen’s US patent application for the Lego toy building brick. The application was submitted 60 years ago yesterday on Jan 28, 1958, an occasion that is celebrated annually as International LEGO Day. (thx, david)

Custom minifigs of Star Trek: The Next Generation characters

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2018

Star Trek Minifigs

Oh these are cool: custom-made minifigs of all your favorite Star Trek:TNG characters. The Wesley Crusher one is kinda funny, but Wil Wheaton makes a good case as to why it’s unfair to the character. And it turns out, you can get custom minifigs for just about everything, from LeBron James to Game of Thrones to yourself. (via io9)

Lego Grand Theft Auto

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2017

This video by Nukazooka of Grand Theft Auto being played by Lego characters is uncommonly well done. It looks more or less like the Lego Movie but made with a fraction of the budget.

Off-topic, but on their Twitter account I also discovered this cool 5-second video illustrating how air moves due to a passing semi truck. I can’t stop watching this!!

Lego New York

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2017

Lego New York

From J.R. Schmidt, a rendering of New York City in Lego. Prints are available. Be sure to check out his other work as well…cool stuff.

See also Christoph Niemann’s I Lego NY book. (thx alastair)

NASA Apollo Saturn V Lego set

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2017

Apollo 11 Lego

Lego has introduced an Apollo Saturn V rocket set, complete with lunar lander and 3 astronaut minifigs.

Packed with authentic details, it features 3 removable rocket stages, including the S-IVB third stage with the lunar lander and lunar orbiter. The set also includes 3 stands to display the model horizontally, 3 new-for-June-2017 astronaut microfigures for role-play recreations of the Moon landings, plus a booklet about the manned Apollo missions and the fan designers of this educational and inspirational LEGO Ideas set.

Three rocket stages! And look at this lander:

Apollo 11 Lego

Amazing detail: the set contains 1969 pieces, which is the year that the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the Moon. I typically leave the Lego building to my kids, but I might have to make an exception for this. (via mike)

The design of these Lego shopping bags is 100% genius

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2016

Lego Bag Design

These Lego shopping bags are cleverly designed to make people carrying them look like they have Lego minifig arms. Fantastic design. (via @andrewbloch)

A Lego minifig with human skin

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2016

Um. Um, um, um. Uh. Frank Ippolito built a costume designed to look like a Lego minifig with real human skin. The hands — the haaaaaands!! — are super super super creepy.

Statistical analysis of 67 years of Lego sets

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2016

Legos Are Graying

Life-long Lego fan Joel Carron recently analyzed a data set containing the types, colors, and number of pieces in every Lego set from the past 67 years and graphed the results. The shift in colors is the most striking thing to me: Legos are graying.

Legos have gotten darker, with white giving way to black and gray. The transition from the old grays to the current bluish grays (or “bley”) is a hot-button topic for many Lego fans.

If you look at the dominant color palettes for all of the tie-in sets they’re doing now, it’s not difficult to see where those darker colors are coming from.

Behind the scenes of Legoland’s model workshop

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2016

Wired recently talked to a couple of Lego Master Builders about how they create new pieces for display at Legoland. They have a custom CAD program for making Lego structures (and people and animals) which can show MRI-like slices for whatever thing they’re working on for ease of construction. The subway station mosaic detail at the end is super cool.

Minecraft: more than just a game

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2016

Minecraft Niemann

Clive Thompson’s article for the NY Times about Minecraft captures what many players, parents, and teachers find exciting about the game that seems like more than just a game.

Presto: Jordan had used the cow’s weird behavior to create, in effect, a random-number generator inside Minecraft. It was an ingenious bit of problem-solving, something most computer engineers I know would regard as a great hack — a way of coaxing a computer system to do something new and clever.

In addition to learning about logic and computer science, various educators have also touted Minecraft’s lessons in civics, design, planning, and even philosophy. If you’ve ever seen little kids playing with blocks, you’ve noticed that some of those potential lessons there too.

Block-play was, in the European tradition, regarded as a particularly “wholesome” activity; it’s not hard to draw a line from that to many parents’ belief that Minecraft is the “good” computer game in a world full of anxiety about too much “screen time.”

Among the parents I know, Minecraft is not classified as a game…it’s very much tied to education.1 And when listening to the kids and their friends talk about it, if you can get past the endless chatter about zombies and diamond armor, their understanding of the whole world of possibilities is quite sophisticated.

And I can’t resist commenting on this little aside about Lego:

Today many cultural observers argue that Lego has moved away from that open-ended engagement, because it’s so often sold in branded kits: the Hogwarts castle from “Harry Potter,” the TIE fighter from “Star Wars.”

Until very recently, I was in that camp of cultural observers, frustrated by the brands and paint-by-number aspect of contemporary Lego kits. But my kids play with Lego a ton and I’ve observed plenty of open-ended engagement going on. Sure, they sit for 20-30 minutes putting the kits together using directions, but after they’re “done”, the real play begins. Ollie’s Star Wars ships dock at Minna’s birthday party. Soon, beach goers are wearing Stormtrooper helmets and Vader’s eating cupcakes. None of the “finished” products survive more than a few minutes without being augmented or taken apart to make something different. Ships take on wheels from previous kits and become delivery trucks (with cool laser cannons). Parts from every station, house, vehicle, and landscape get remixed into whatever’s necessary for their dramatic play. It’s like jazz with injection molded plastic.

  1. On my iPad, I have a screen full of educational apps that the kids can work with pretty much anytime they want without asking. (To play Alto’s Adventure or Subway Surfer, they have to ask.) Minecraft is not on this screen — and I had to explain my decision on this specifically to the kids — but this article may have persuaded me to add it.

Trailer for the upcoming Lego + The Force Awakens video game

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2016

Lego and Disney are teaming up for a Star Wars: The Force Awakens video game, out this summer. The trailer for it is possibly more fun than the movie was and is well worth watching if you enjoyed The Lego Movie.