10K Club Interview: Steven Wayne Howard's Mini-fig Scale Project Gemini
Steven Wayne Howard's (or Stevenhoward27 on LEGO Ideas) Mini-fig Scale Project Gemini, is based on the real Project Gemini that helped pave the way for people to visit the Moon! His project has been well received on LEGO Ideas with the support of 10,000 of you. Be sure to congratulate Steven in the comments down below.
- Who are you?
Steven Wayne Howard.
- Where are you from?
Originally I am from a small Danish village in Iowa (Elk Horn), but have been living in Union City, California for the past few years.
- How old are you?
I am 32.
- What do you do for a living?
I studied Illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco from 2006-2010 and have been working as the Senior Technical Illustrator at Maxar (a satellite and spacecraft manufacturer) since 2012.
- What hobbies do you have?
I enjoy illustration, animation, and creating things with LEGO of course!
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
My work can be found on my Instagram.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I have been interested/obsessed with LEGO since I was 2. In fact, my earliest memory in life is holding a bucket of LEGO while moving to my family’s old home.
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons.
LEGO is an essential part of my life. It has and continues to be one of the best ways for me to express ideas I have in my head or help educate others about space or other tech/concepts. It allows me to continually push my creativity and grow as an artist.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
My two favorite themes are Creator Expert and LEGO Ideas. These two themes have some of the most creative uses of parts, provide satisfying challenges and are always inspirational and informative for my own personal builds.
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
I am proud of five different MOCs. One is the Mammoth Rocket Ride with which I won Grand Prize for the Transform Your LEGO Bricks Into Wacky Bedrock Inventions! Contest. Another is the Starship Jordan Miller that won the Bonus Prize for the Join the Mission to Take Us from the Moon to Mars! Contest. The next is Vladimir: A Cosmonaut’s Best Friend, which won a contest on Newelementary.com. I also like the very challenging build I did of the Russian MAKS concept shuttle. Lastly, I am proud of the Mini-fig Scale Project Gemini.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
The Saturn V is the greatest set ever made! It is about space, the greatest rocket ever made, has great “swooshability” and other play features, is educational, very sturdy, has some of the coolest building techniques, and was the most satisfying building experience I have ever had. All those clicking connections! So good!
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
I like the entire category of the sloped curved brick. These provide more form and character to designs than what was previously possible when I grew up with LEGO.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
Jason Allenmann is one of my favorite designers. I believe he embodies the spirit of LEGO through every build. He is extremely creative, inventive, positive, and humble.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I like http://www.newelementary.com/ and https://www.tipsandbricks.co.uk/.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I have always been fascinated with space and how mankind has endeavored to explore it. My passion for it is deep and if my job is any indicator, is why I work in the space industry to begin with. Gemini, to me, is the most interesting space program ever conceived. It is crucial to the United States learning docking and space walking (Ed White did the first ever U.S. space walk with Gemini) procedures for Apollo and has a rich, deep history with hundreds of tasks and ideas that are still impacting how NASA and the whole of the space industry work today.
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
The process took a few months of design across LEGO Digital Designer and Bricklink Stud.io. I started out in a larger scale and eventually worked my way to a smaller mini-fig scale. I have several detailed books and manuals of Gemini that I referenced when building the MOC. Eventually I built a real-life model after I did all the design work.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
Producing this at such a small scale, every part was challenging to create. The main capsule took the longest to figure out especially with the iconic hatches.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Keep going. You’ll eventually figure it out. (I was often puzzled on how to build at the smaller scale, but eventually came to the conclusion I did). I wish I knew the challenges of the scale going in, but through that process of discovery it made me a better builder today.
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
The model took a few weeks to finish. My wife was pregnant at the time and I finished the model on the 17th of May, but my daughter was born on the 18th so I had to wait a few days to create the decals and then upload to Ideas.
Reaching 10k took way longer to reach than creating the model itself. My daughter is almost 2, that is how long it took! But it was worth it!
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
It felt like a dream. It took a very long time, but was worth it. It was exciting to see it progress over the past 600+ days on Ideas though as it did not receive a single negative comment or critique. I only received positive feedback the entire time. It was very encouraging to see so many people interested in what I had created and it still feels like a dream.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
There are roughly 890 pieces in the model.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
I really enjoy the creation of the adapter equipment section with the complex conical shape and large gold disk surrounded by an array of gold slopes. The technique I used to get the slopes around the large disk was a lot of fun.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I used LEGO Digital Designer for the initial design, then imported to Bricklink Studio so I could order the parts I needed for a real model, exported to Mecabricks so I could then export it from there to Cinema 4D where I did my final decal work and official render/animation that everyone is familiar with.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
All the stickers were based on the real Gemini. I used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create the stickers and applied them onto the model in Cinema 4D.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
Be creative and build what you love first and foremost. Don’t follow trends just because they are popular, but at the same time, do understand what people like and are interested in. After that, look at how official LEGO sets are made and consider how and why those sets were made. Get good photos or renders of your design and share with people as often as you can. Getting to 10k can be a long and hard process so encourage others to share on your behalf. Good design is only part of what it takes to make it in. Participate in contests, build other models, attract more people to the things you create and they will see and hopefully support your product idea in the process.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
I used Instagram mostly to attract support and many other accounts helped share my idea on there. Amy Shira Teitel, a spaceflight historian, shared my idea on Twitter, which was cool and helpful.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
I loved the Saturn V. As I mentioned earlier, it is my favorite set of all time. It would have been cool to see Thunderbirds Are Go by AndrewClark2 and Stitch by Legohaulic made into official sets.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea
I absolutely love the platform and think it is one of the best things LEGO has ever done as a company. The LEGO community has so many great ideas and it is amazing to see designs from fans become actual sets that we can all enjoy. For anyone wanting to upload an idea, be creative, build well, and have fun!
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
There are certainly things I want to submit in the future, but it will be a while as I am working on developing a LEGO animation for now.
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