Interview with Kevin Szeto, fan designer of the 21306 Yellow Submarine
It was Monday morning, the 31st October 2016, and the LEGO Ideas team was keenly awaiting the arrival of Kevin Szeto who had travelled from his home in Toronto, Canada to join us in chilly Billund. He just came in from Liverpool the day before, where he was the guest of honour at none other than his own LEGO Ideas Yellow Submarine signing event at the Liverpool LEGO® Store. To say he had a busy day signing Yellow Submarine sets would certainly be an understatement, so we were happy to see that he was all smiles when he arrived.
^ There was a time for a quick photo op with Kevin posing with the Yellow Submarine set, as well as the perfect sweater, before LEGO fans swarmed Kevin for his autograph!
Following a quick breakfast, we got down to business - a meet and greet with the LEGO designers (Justin, Austin and Tom), who walked Kevin through their design process and Yellow Submarine iterations that were kickstarted once Kevin's Yellow Submarine project was greenlit for production as one of the next LEGO Ideas sets! But more importantly, we also had a little bit of time to get Kevin's thoughts on his LEGO Ideas experience. Before we dove into the interview there was one more thing that we HAD to do. There were four Beatles members ... and four designers involved in the LEGO Yellow Submarine. Coincidence? We think not! We had to recreate the iconic Abbey Road photo in Billund.
Read on and get to know a little more about Kevin and what drove his motivation for this colourful LEGO set.
^ Justin introduced Kevin to the palette of LEGO elements that were used to create the final Yellow Submarine.
"I'm from Toronto, Canada and I'm 37 years old. When I'm not building or playing with LEGO, I'm an aerospace engineer for a company that makes turbine engines for aircraft. Outside of LEGO and my work, I'm also a musician and a songwriter. I play piano and guitar, and I sing" Kevin tells us as he introduces himself. With a small smile he adds that the music is just "for fun". Needless to say, we learned quickly that Kevin is a man of many talents!
Being the musical person that he is, Kevin has always been a fan of The Beatles and that resonated in his desire to building the iconic vessel. "I built the Yellow Submarine as a tribute to my like for The Beatles and their music. It's such a colourful, bright and attractive vehicle that just translated very well to LEGO".
"My submission was built in LEGO Digital Designer. It took me a weekend working on it full time plus many nights refining it. Since submitting and since it was gathering support, I physically built the model itself" Kevin continued, as he shared a little more insight into his build process and how LEGO Digital Designer proved to be a useful prototyping tool.
We often hear about the reactions that LEGO Ideas members have when their projects reach 10,000 supporters, so we got curious about the moment we informed Kevin about the decision to produce his Yellow Submarine as the next LEGO Ideas set. We quizzed Kevin some more and hie responded "I was totally ecstatic! My family, friends and colleagues at work were very happy for me".
"The LEGO Ideas team had communicated to me in private a few days before the announcement that it would be chosen and that it would be announced in a few days. So for the next few days I had to keep super quiet and secretive, and mum about it. I was excited but couldn't tell anybody about it. On the day, I was at work refreshing my smartphone around the time it was to be announced and of course it came and it was a very happy moment".
Given his active engagement on LEGO Ideas and successful projects, we asked Kevin what advice he would share for any budding LEGO builder out there seeking the elusive goal of the next LEGO Ideas set to which Kevin responded "You must pick a project that you're passionate about. You can't underestimate the importance of promoting it on various social media sites. For me, I was posting the Yellow Submarine on different Facebook pages related to LEGO or The Beatles. So my advice is that it's important not just to upload your project and expect it to reach 10,000 supporters, but that you really need to follow it closely and constantly, and give it exposure".
Before rounding off for the day, we also wanted to hear about Kevin's experience at the signing event that was held in Liverpool, the home of The Beatles. "It started at 11am but we showed up at 10am and there was already a big line-up outside the store with people waiting in anticipation to get their boxes signed. So I was obviously completely overwhelmed by the number of people that showed up. During the event itself, it was great meeting many of the fans and people who appreciated the model - both kids and adults. There were people of all ages who were happy to see the Yellow Submarine put into production and to meet me. I was totally overwhelmed. I'm just an ordinary guy who came up with an idea and here I am, people wanting my autograph. It was a very positive and memorable experience".
A Brick in the Life - Yellow Submarine Contest
To celebrate the launch of Kevin's Yellow Submarine set, we got together with our friends at LEGO Rebrick and launched an exciting contest where you could get to win some awesome prizes that include Yellow Submarine sets signed by both Kevin Szeto as well as LEGO Designer Justin Ramsden, and lots of cool Beatles merchandise thanks to Apple Corps.
All you have to do is build your favourite Beatles moment or song in LEGO bricks and upload your photo to LEGO Rebrick. It's that simple and with the Christmas vacation upon us, you'll have plenty of time to recreate that perfect moment.
Entry closes on the 3rd of January 2017 at 10:00 a.m. EST.
^ We put Kevin and Justin to work signing Yellow Submarine sets. You might just win one of them!