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Expert interview with Design Director at LEGO Licencing®

Sine Klitgaard Møller is a design director at Lego Licensing and has worked for the LEGO group since 1995. She has vast experience in doing research with families. The LEGO company is insight driven, meaning they base new product development on research findings rather than relying on assumptions and churning out new merchandise without much thought. This is why LEGO is still at the forefront of the children’s toy industry, being nominated the most powerful global brand earlier this year.

We had the pleasure of working with Sine during a project for LEGO® wear the children’s wear brand that goes the extra mile for families by understanding and supporting their lives. She has kindly given us some time to answer a few questions.

 

AT LEGO YOU DO A LOT OF RESEARCH, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TALK TO PEOPLE?

“You can have an idea of what you think things are like, but you don’t know for sure if that is the case. When talking to parents they will tell you their ideal picture of what they would like their lives to be like, not necessarily what their lives are actually like. For example, mums often tell us they are trying to stimulate their child creatively and would like toys that help them do so. But when digging a bit deeper it becomes clear that it is not only about creativity but also about trying to get the child to play on its own for a few minutes so mum can get on with other things for a while.”

WE FIND THAT THE CHILDREN’S INDUSTRY IS PARTICULARLY PRONE TO PREJUDICE, EVERYONE KNOWS A CHILD AND OFTEN FEEL THEY HAVE A GOOD GRASP OF THEIR PREFERENCES. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT?

“Doing research is not about proving what you have in your head. At LEGO Licensing staff are encouraged not to say “my kids like… or my cousin’s children like …” it’s simply not credible. You would never trust a medical scientist who says: – my kids like this medicine and they didn’t get sick”

CAN YOU GIVE US AN INSIGHT YOU GOT FROM RESEARCHING WITH KIDS THAT YOU WOULDN’T HAVE FOUND OUT OTHERWISE?

“One of the big take outs from the LEGO® Wear research that we wouldn’t have found without research was that LEGO wear needs to be easy, not fashionable or trendy. We also learnt fathers take on dressing children & what they want from children’s clothing. That meant we can tailor advertising to include dads and show things from a dad’s perspective, i.e. how to match clothes, and how easily it washes etc. That is a totally new ‘hook’ we can use.”

AT WHAT STAGE OF A PROJECT DO YOU DO RESEARCH?

“We do research at all stages of a project. In the beginning to define the brief, and then we have play tests every week where kids are invited into LEGO to try toys that are in development. We also do packaging tests in the final stages of a project, and sometimes even after a project is done to evaluate the outcome.”

HOW DO YOU FIND KIDS TO WORK WITH?

“We use consultancies who can find us children with the right criteria, such as age and gender. We are also in touch with a few kindergardens where we have a sign-up system for those interested in taking part in research with parents approval.”

KIDS ARE UNPREDICTABLE, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOU GET THEM TO FEED BACK ON WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO?

“Although keeping an open mind you need to be super clear on what you want to get out of the research. And then you need need simple straightforward questions. When doing group tests you have to be aware of group dynamics and peer pressure. For example in a shopping scenario where kids are asked something along the lines of: ‘If you have £10 what would you buy?’, if someone picks a thing someone else also likes they may not realise it can be picked again despite there just being one sample piece of clothing.”

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE RESEARCH AFTER A PROJECT?

We transfer the knowledge from research between other projects. We have a common share and we constantly re-visit research.

CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF A RESEARCH FINDING THAT HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY TRANSLATED INTO A PRODUCT?

“LEGO Friends — LEGO bricks made specifically for girls — is a good example. It started with many years heavy research before we launched the products. We were under the assumption that girls don’t like to build, but they do, they just think they can’t do it –– the company’s tag line is ‘creating the builders of tomorrow’ –– if we want to support children to become the builders of tomorrow, and we are going to have female engineers we had better get girls building.”

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A big Thank You to Sine for talking to us!

11th November 2015
Category : Design, Experts, Insights
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Design That Stimulates – Central Saint Martin’s Graduate Show 2015

Sometimes, indulging in too much of a good thing can be wonderful. On rare occasions it might even be good for you. For anyone with an insatiable curiosity, a graduate show – with its abundance of eye-catching creations and thought provoking concepts – is an example of one such satisfactorily opulent occasion.

The second half of the Central Saint Martins’ annual graduate show, dedicated to showcasing design, graphics, and material exploration, took place this June and, as Studio INTO’s Joanna Brassett has this year had the enviable task of tutoring some of the final year product design students, I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the opening night.

Joanna had supervised a selection of the students personal and client projects., among them a group project done in collaboration with McCain, entitled ‘The future of the potato (it’s not a chip!)’. This humorous brief produced some ingenious products, including a wearable snack targeting ‘scooter-set’ school children and a new take on edible energy boosting gels, also made primarily from potatoes. Reassuringly however, I don’t think the chip element of Friday fish dinners will be jeopardised any time soon.

 

Graduation exhibitions, as environments of excessive creativity, are not only a place for inspirational indulgence, but also present a great opportunity to spot emergent socio-cultural themes. Although we find ourselves in a time where once easily identifiable trends have been replaced by a steady bombardment of short lived micro movements – whose main objective increasingly seems to be to demonstrate of their novelty rather than their relevance – there were a few poignant trends that transpired the show that I’m sure we will be seeing more of in the future.

Although we have yet to see any truly ‘Jetson-esque’ gadgets being mass produced, I am sure no one will have managed to avoid the ubiquitous hype of how smart wearable technology is soon supposed to be transforming everyday life. It was perhaps rather expected then that one of the most notable themes addressed at the show was intelligent objects and Big Data. Most evident at the product and graphic part of the show, many student explored the potential benefits from harnessing big data, and the new moral philosophy that could develop as products get smarter. Ideas ranged from concepts that I would be thrilled to see on next year’s Christmas list, to speculative products I hope remain dystopian predictions. One of the more optimistic student was Kehan Yu: “Connected products can be seen not only as tools but also as devices which can give active responses. An intelligent sensing computer would understand its users’ behaviours and serve them similarly to a servant aiming to reduce its master’s burden. A personal Internet of Things could create an efficient and sustainable future.”

Another prominent, less anticipated theme, saw projects focus on alternate health care and the process of death. These students had highlighted varied issues such as the ageing global population, our obsession with cleanliness and a changing religious landscape as factors affecting our current mental and physical health. There were apps for self-medication, a dispenser that would expose you to bacteria as you slept, paraphernalia for modern burial rites and digital services for remembering the lives of deceased family and friends. One exhibiting student, Simon Drake said “Memories of people, places and events in our lives are inescapable. So it follows that the many objects we come in contact with represent an attachment formed with people, places and/or events. Over a lifetime this can become a rich collection of ephemera that reflects our individual and/ or collective journeys.”

 

Since my own graduation I have noticed a growing general sentiment that despite today being a time of stuffification, design continues to blindly add to the ‘object overload’, increasingly disconnecting itself from both the industry and changing social values. As editor in chief, Robert Thiemann, said in the June/July Issue of ‘Frame’: “What bothers me is that an industry so deeply engaged in innovation – literally from day one – pays so little attention to broad social shifts and technological advances.” But, having seen what this years’ students have produced I can, with renewed confidence, beg to differ.

Whilst it might be true that most of the projects on display will not in their present form make it into our everyday lives, the overwhelming evidence of student’s awareness of real social issues and exploration of new materials would lead me to believe that at least some of them will not go on to just make ‘new stuff’ for the sake of it.

Let’s hope that the inspiring optimism and enthusiasm present during the opening night of their show remains with the graduates once they leave the university-incubator, and that they remember that as designers –thinkers, makers, doers – they should dare to apply themselves to bigger things. By tackling social and technological change with an inquisitive, provocative and entertaining mind set, I would like to believe we will see the new graduates go on to make big waves in the services and systems of the real world.

Then again, being a Central Saint Martins alumni, I was perhaps always going to be biased.

 

 

Nathalie Jerming – Havill

5th August 2015

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