10K Club Interview: Hear from Andrew Clark, the Mind Behind Thunderbirds Are Go!
Time flies as we're back with the second 10K Club Interview this time round which will run for the next few months up in the lead up to the next review results.
Thunderbirds Are Go! Andrew Clark (aka AndrewClark2 on LEGO Ideas) who created the Thunderbirds Are Go product idea, has brought international rescue to life in LEGO® form! Read about his journey in this 10K Club Interview! Be sure to congratulate him in the comments down below!
- Where are you from?
I'm originally from Manchester, England, but I've been living in the US since 2004. I currently live and work in Baltimore, Maryland.
- How old are you?
Biologically 42, but when playing with LEGO just a kid with a large box of LEGO.
- What do you study or do for a living?
I create artwork for video games. I get to build 3D models and texture them. The most recent game I worked on that has been released is Sid Meier's Civilization VI where I got to model and texture some of the Wonders, such as the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House, Big Ben, Le Mont Saint-Michel, and several more.
Over my 17 years as a Games Artist I have worked on many different types of games and assets from Sci Fi spaceships, to iconic buildings.
- What hobbies do you have?
I enjoy creating artwork as personal projects, typically 3D models I built that are rendered such as this RC car model.
I also enjoy photography and creating textures both photo real and stylized. Building official LEGO sets and creating my own designs is a big passion, as is creating LEGO Ideas projects as that combines all my interests.
- Do you have a personal portfolio website that you can share with us?
I have a Flickr account!
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I first started building with LEGO with my brothers, I was around 6 and my older brother had the LEGO Technic 8860 car. Soon he, my younger brother, and I were also buying sets, and we got to a point where we had enough to make what we wanted. We used to build vehicles and smash them together to see which design was strongest! Of course I would never do that now, I'm like the dad from the LEGO movie, “don't touch my LEGO!” As with most people other things took over but around 2013 I started getting back into it and found LEGO CUUSOO, now known as LEGO Ideas.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
I don't have a definite favorite, as I appreciate different themes, but these come to mind:
• LEGO Ideas NASA Apollo Saturn V (An epic and detailed build)
• Various Architecture sets (Great for display, and the essence of the buildings are nicely condensed into a small footprint.
• LEGO Brick Headz Go Brick Me set 41597 (A great idea and fun to do as a family.)
• Various LEGO Technic, And City sets. The new City space sets look very cool! As do the new Overwatch sets, Wreckingball and Junkrat & Roadhog.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
Typically its the one that solves a particular design challenge I have at the time. I like the new 1x3 jumper plate and 1x1 brackets.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why
Michael Psiaki His understanding of geometry and how to create complex shapes using LEGO bricks is impressive. Justin Ramsden seems to be a rising star and has several cool sets to his name, but he has a way to go before he can be called legendary like this guy ;)
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
• New Elementary: It has in-depth blogs on new elements and creative ways they can be used.
• Brickset: Lots of LEGO news updated daily.
• Brothers Brick: Lots of cool and impressive builds
• The Brick fan, up to date LEGO news.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
Growing up I loved watching the Thunderbirds with its epically detailed practical models and effects with exciting characters and missions. I can credit the Thunderbirds as an early inspiration for my love of asthetics and design that ultimately led to a career as an Artist. I fondly look back at days spent drawing, and building my own vehicle designs in LEGO bricks. And who can forget that theme music! 54321 Thunderbirds Are Go!
Since 2015 there is a new series based on the Thunderbirds. Thunderbirds Are Go. This version has a mix of computer graphics and pratical effects. It follows the same main characters, with a few additions that together form International Rescue that go on daring missions with cool tech and vehicles. I wanted to bring to life one of the most iconic vehicles from the show Thunderbird 2 in LEGO. It has a lot of scope for play senarios with the different pod vehicles it can carry. I initially based my design on the Thunderbirds Are Go version, then updated with the option for the classic design.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
Getting the right look for the classic Thunderbird 2 was a challenge. For instance, the front nose of the craft, as it curved more than one axis. The main challenge was how to represent the more organic body. I ended up using hinge plates to get the tapered body, and various slopes to round the model. Having the taper eliminated the stair step look and helped the model look more flowing and organic.
Thunderbird 2 also has telescopic legs. While I knew that may not be possible I tried other solutions. At first regular stud attachment, then clip on. Eventually I found a way to have the legs integrated into the body where they both rotated and extended out which I added as an update.
Getting the pod vehicles to fit in the pod and still look good and detailed was also a challenge.
The size and scope of any project, deciding what to include or exclude can be a challenge. I talk about this more in the question on: useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time?
The Thunderbirds Are Go models took around 3 weeks, mostly during the weekends, and then another 3 weeks for the renders.
As for the Classic Thunderbird 2 model it took around 2 weeks of getting the initial shape and building in real LEGO. Building in real LEGO was crucial, as the technique I used for the tapered body was unusual, and I wanted to know for sure that it would work. Digital lacks the tactile feel that is essential to gauqge if a build works in real life. I then spent another month during weekends refining details and designing the other craft. Once I felt all the designs worked then I invested the time to digitially build, create graphics, and then render out the images.
In total I spent around 100 hours for the designs, graphics and renders. However this does not include the most time intensive aspect. This project was unique for me in that I created all my own hi res digital LEGO parts using subdivision that I then optimized.
Creating some of the more complex shapes was a challenge, as was the sheer number of parts needed and finding the time to create them. In total around 400 hours was spent, but I knew I could then use them on any future LEGO renders.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
I was very excited that a show that influenced and helped inspire me to pursue a career as an artist was now being considered by the LEGO Group. My project took about a year and 9 months to get the votes.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
Around 750 parts for the whole set proposal.
About LEGO Ideas
- This is your third 10K project. What’s the secret formula to your success?
If I told you it wouldn't be secret ;) But here goes.
The secret formula is:
Reading Ideas Rules + Gathering reference + Planning + Passion + Hard work + Persistence in promotion =
Best chance for success.
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
Ever go into a LEGO store and feel magnetically drawn to gaze over all the cool LEGO sets? And then turn the box to see all the cool features? You want to instill that feeling in people who view your project, and should it get to review the review board too. Make it easy for people to imagine this as a real set, by way of clear visuals, cool play features, and a design that should it be based on an IP (intellectual property) encapsulates the essence of, and what is loved about that IP.
For example, with my Thunderbirds proposal update it felt only right that a set proposal based on the show included a reference that honors Gerry Anderson, in this case a 1x4 printed tile saying Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds. As a fan myself I feel this adds a lot, and it's only one part!
I plan a lot when doing any projects, but all of it is driven by a passion to get the best results I can.
The steps in order I take are:
Create a list of projects you are passionate about and then reduce them down using the following:
Ideas rules, active licenses/restricted. Rules are your friends! They prevent you spending months on something that could never be for various reasons.
Is it too similar to an existing Ideas set, or sets currently on sale?
Is it too niche? or its appeal too limited?
Is it impractical, in terms of size and stability?
Does another company hold the license, and are they competitors of the LEGO Group?
If any of these are yes, think of something else.
I also take a look at every LEGO Ideas set so far and ask, how does this set proposal fit in? Would it feel like a member of the ideas family of sets, yet at the same time feel distinct enough from all the others?
Once you have narrowed it down to a set you want to propose then:
• Gather reference and brainstorm on what features would add interest and fun to the design.
• Building rough models in real LEGO bricks or software like LDD to get the basic shapes, proportions and features. Be mostly realistic in size and scope, so you don't way over promise in terms of what would likely be possible.
• Determining the key aspects of the set that drive demand and interest. Give those models the most attention in your project.
• Refine the build and at some point, build in real LEGO bricks to ensure it works and is fun to build. Also don't be too gentle with your model as this will inform you where it needs to be more robust.
• Maintain a good frequency and placement of detail, too high and it will look noisy, too low and it will look basic and lack detail. Too concentrated in one area and the model won't look balanced or cohesive.
• Avoid large areas of repetitive color by introducing other colors, but not in a garish way unless the subject matter calls for it.
• Finally go over your model to see if any improvements can be made then create interesting compositions that showcase the different views and features of the design.
• Regardless of if it's a render or photos create in focus well-lit images. Avoid clutter and distracting backgrounds to create easily readable images that "pop" and make it clear what the set is about
• Create your new Ideas project. Upload images, and a video to showcase any play features and links to any other content. Write a brief description and break up the text to make it more interesting. Check your project thoroughly as once you submit you cannot edit only update.
• Do updates to showcase any design improvements, supporter milestones met, and links to where your design has been shown.
• Read the feedback in the comments, if several people say the same thing maybe they have a point. And engage/ respond to comments, it keeps interest up and It's the nice thing to do!
Good design and visuals will only get you so far, you need to make people aware your design exists. Ask yourself what drives interest in your project and who would be interested your design, and then target your promotion efforts there.
1. Share project images and links on various image hosting sites such as groups on Flicker, and various social media groups relevant to your model. Try to make it clear in your promotion efforts text and visuals that this is a proposal for a LEGO set. and that they have the power to help make it happen by voting.
2. Go to conventions have fun, be inspired, and in addition your design may be noticed by LEGO YouTube channels, some of which have huge followings. A social media post or a YouTube interview by them where you show and discuss your model could give your project a big boost!
Project size and scope
On the one hand you want to be realistic in the amount you propose, on the other fans of the show, such as myself naturally want to see as much cool stuff as possible. My thoughts are to propose a bit more than I think would be in the final set if selected, and here is why.
It is better to have proposed it and it not be needed, than need it and not have it.
This means adding a bit extra content may strengthen your proposal in review by giving LEGO more options to consider. The worst-case scenario of adding extra content is that if it passes review it's not included.
The worst-case scenario of not including it could be it weakens your proposal in review by leaving out something LEGO, and potentially an IP holder would have wanted.However, adding content has limits. You do not want to go to an extreme and your project come across as unrealistic, such as proposing a whole themes worth of content in one set proposal. Just propose an additional 25% or so more content that you feel could make the cut.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea
LEGO Ideas has evolved over time, so now not only do I get to see and post projects, but I get to see all the creative models for the competitions. As for posting projects the thought that not just my idea but my vision for a LEGO set based on something I enjoy could be brought to life as an official LEGO set is partly what drives me. I also have a strong desire to create and be creative. I also love problem solving, presenting visuals, and the whole process of project creation.
- Are you already planning further projects?
I only work on projects that I’m passionate about and some of them are unsuited to becoming a LEGO set or not allowed, so I’d like to do some non-LEGO ideas projects in the next few months, such as a UCS Dalek from Doctor Who. Firstly, however I am going to focus on sitting down less and being more physically active.
- Which upcoming LEGO Ideas set are you looking most forward to?
Who doesn't like Dinosaurs? Comets and asteroids apparently :)
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