Some of us have had ideas for personalized LEGO® creations such as our home, a customized vehicle, a favorite TV show spaceship, or a historical building and it’s fun to think that we can turn those dreams into reality and actually build them using our favorite LEGO® bricks. However, some of us don’t know where to start, what techniques and pieces to use, what scale to work on, and all the other details that come with a customized LEGO® creation. This is where LEGO® Commission Work comes in!
This is where custom LEGO® digital designers come in. There are some individuals or teams that actually design customized creations for people which we often call commissioned works/projects. Although each designer has their own specialty and way of designing digital LEGO® creations, the main goal is to turn the ideas of the clients into digital forms and generate instructions and parts lists utilizing existing LEGO® pieces and practical building techniques.
I have been fortunate enough to have done a few commissioned projects since January 2021 and I’m here to discuss some details of how I collaborated with different clients to create the designs using BrickLink’s STUD.IO software. This may help those who want to have their ideas become a reality. Or this might also help those who want to try to do commissioned works so that they may have ideas on “what to do”’ and “what not to do” as well as some lessons learned.
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I have received inquiries directly from individual clients through emails and private messages. I have also received inquiries from site admins that provide custom digital designs as part of their services to their clients. Unless there is an agreement between a designer and a team/entity about exclusively designing for them, a designer can venture and try to acquire potential projects from different platforms.
The best way for a designer to start gaining potential clients is to be active in promoting the works on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, etc. This generally helps boost the popularity of a designer and informs their followers that they can contact the designer for inquiries. For potential clients, it is important to know that inquiring does not force you to commit to a project if you do not wish to proceed as long as it is still just in the inquiry stage. IT’S FREE TO ASK ^_^
Discussion of the Details of the Design
Upon receiving an inquiry, I usually have a set of questions that I ask the client to gain more information about the idea that they want me to create. The more details that the client can provide, the better, faster, and easier it is for the designers to visualize the design concept and translate them into digital form. Below are some examples of buildings that the clients have asked me to design:
As I normally design building structures, my questions to the clients may differ from other designers. Below are the questions that I would normally ask the clients:
- What is the scale of the building? Is it microscale or minifig scale? Would it have to fit certain dimensions or sizes like 16×32 or 32×32 or 48×48 base plate? This sets standards on how many details I can put and how much the price of the commissioned work would be. The bigger and more detailed the design is, the more expensive it is.
LEGO Commission Sample Minifig Scale
LEGO Commission Sample Microscale Church
- Does it need to have interiors or do they only want an exterior façade? This affects the complexity of the build and the piece count and consequently affects the overall price of the design and parts.
LEGO Commission Police Station (with interiors)
LEGO Commission Hospital (Façade only)
- Is there a piece count/price limit for the parts? This determines how many details I need to put in and allows me to stop at certain limits to check with the client if they are satisfied or if they want me to continue and potentially exceed the limit.
- Is there a time constraint or deadline? Some projects involve certain events like weddings, birthdays, engagements, etc. Therefore, it is important to note the time constraints. It also allows for me to prioritize certain works if needed, as well as allocate my time properly to balance – work/life/vacation/LEGO time. (And yes, even though LEGO® has become my work, I also allot personal LEGO® time as a hobby ^_^).
- Are there images of the structure or reference photos that I can work on as part of the design? This part is very helpful in giving an accurate direction for the designer to follow. The more images and references that the client can provide, the more accurate and polished the digital design would be. It is understandable that sometimes the clients do not know what they want and that they only have a vague idea of the design. In cases like these, I share with them images of actual buildings or structures as well as some of my previous designs that have similar concepts to what they are looking for.
- The exclusivity of the design. Some clients require their designs to be exclusive to them. Others are okay with their designs not being exclusive. For me, this affects the price of the commissioned work as Purely exclusive designs may cost more and non-exclusive designs are slightly cheaper as they can be posted on online platforms and others may buy them at lower prices. In non-exclusive designs, I allow my clients to be able to build the design first before I post online so that they get to enjoy their building with the idea that they got to build it first.
There are many more questions that branch out from the general questions mentioned above. The main idea is to provide and acquire as much information as possible before starting with the design. It is better to find out the specifics before committing to the project rather than stop and redo halfway through the design process.
LEGO Commission Quotation
After receiving all the relevant information, I assess the design and try to do rough digital designs to figure out how to translate the ideas into digital LEGO® structures. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, it may take 1-2 days before I can provide a quote just to make sure that it’s fair on both sides. I would also provide a payment term (this is usually different for each designer). It is also important to note that once the agreement is done, any significant change to the design may cause a change in the price and time of completion. This would normally be called a change order or a variation order (I finally get to use those terms outside of my day job ^_^).
At this point, a certain trust has to be established for both the client and the designer. I’ve had unfortunate interactions where I’ve done the design and am ready to send it to the client only for them to stop communicating and cancel without paying. On the other hand, some clients are worried that they pay in full only to find out that the designer has disappeared. Therefore, I think that an acceptable compromise is a payment of 50% down payment at the start of the project and the other 50% upon completion and release of the instructions and parts list to the client.
During the design process, I look at all the reference images and written descriptions from the client and start working on STUD.IO software. I make several drafts to ensure that the specifications of the client such as dimensions, scale, details, etc. are met or as close to them as possible. I also look into past designs to utilize certain techniques and builds that I’ve done. As I create more commissioned projects, the more references I have. Certain mini-builds such as chairs, beds, sofas, kitchen cabinets, etc. can be reused or modified to fit the current project specifications. The main goal is to create a cohesive design that meets the specifications of the client.
LEGO Commission Spanish Beach House With Notes
Initial Submission and Comments
After achieving personal milestones that I’ve sent for myself (i.e., completing the ground floor exterior & interior or completing the façade of the building), I render some images and take screenshots of the structure and send them to the client for review. This is a good way to progressively get the feedback and course-correct to ensure that the client and I are aligned with what the end goal of the design is.
St. George’s Cathedral LEGO® Commission
Aquarium Second Level LEGO® Commission
I encourage the client to make comments and suggestions on how to further improve the design. There might be some personal touches that the client wants to add to the design that I’ve not thought of. It also allows me to be challenged to further improve my techniques to create certain builds or structures that I would not have imagined I could do.
Comments on the Spanish Beach House
As much as I try to incorporate all the comments and suggestions, not all of them are incorporated into the design. Once I receive the comments. I do some research on what the options are to build certain things to confirm if it is possible, practical, and/or economical. Once I’ve considered all options, I revert to the client if certain comments/suggestions have or have not been incorporated into the design.
The process of submitting drafts to the client and receiving their comments may take several times. This is normal. The key is to give as many detailed descriptions as possible to ensure that the next round of submission and review covers most, if not all, of the comments. Constant communication through email and private messages is also encouraged to ensure that minor comments are easily captured and reflected on the design. Sometimes a brainstorming chat with the client can be fun and can lead to interesting ideas that ultimately improve the design.
LEGO Commission 16 Handles MOC
This is helpful in ensuring to the client that work is being done and there is progress. Having the client be involved in the process makes the process more collaborative and immersive. The client feels that they are part of the design and that they have an effect on how the design evolves from a draft to the final design. It allows them to realize their idea and turn it into reality. This overall process makes a customized MOC all the more personal for both the client and designer.
Finalization of Design
Once I have received all the comments from the client, I finalize the design and render images of the exterior and interiors of the building. I generate at least 2-3 for the exterior and 1 for each level of the building interior. I double-check the stability and connections of the structure using STUD.IO’s STABILITY TEST option.
I then submit the rendered images to the client for his final approval before I generate the instructions and parts list. At this time, upon approval, I also request the client to make the second half of the payment before I generate and send the instructions and parts list to them.
LEGO Commission Mansion
Pagoda Based on a Company Logo
LEGO Commission Cake Toppers
LEGO Commission Center Pieces for Tables
Creation of Instructions, Parts List & Completion of Work
STUD.IO has a very convenient way of generating the instructions. Although I have to input which parts to install first in a step-by-step procedure, the overall functions of STUD.IO help LEGO® digital designers like me in so many ways. At the STEP EDITOR part of STUD.IO, it is crucial to understand the structure and have a visualization of how a builder would actually put the bricks and pieces together. The sequence has to support the practical accessibility of certain areas of the structure.
In the PAGE DESIGN part of STUD.IO, the main goal is to ensure that the instructions clearly show the areas where the bricks and pieces would be installed. I usually go page by page to adjust the angle of the camera. At this point, I also further check the connections of the parts to ensure that there are no missing or misaligned pieces. After going through all the steps, I generate the instructions using the EXPORT option which creates a PDF version of the file.
For the parts list, I upload the.IO file to BrickLink to generate the parts list. Then I download the same list as XML and PDF versions. Once all the files are ready, I send them to the client.
Registering Interest for Your LEGO® Commission
If you are interested in us designing your dream LEGO® set it’s nice and simple, register your interest via the form below and someone from our support team will contact you to find out the details.
Purchasing the Parts
Sometimes, clients who are new to LEGO® don’t know where and how to buy the parts for a MOC so I would usually point them to BrickLink and share with them the video guide on how to upload and use the XML file to buy the parts.
How to Create BrickLink wanted list using XML file
How to buy parts using BrickLink
Another option is to use LEGO.COM’s pick-a-brick option but they usually don’t have all the parts available for a MOC.
Follow-Up and Feedback
I encourage all my clients to ask if there are uncertainties in the instructions and parts list. As much as I try to do quality control during the design phase and instructions generating phase, there are minor errors that may sometimes occur. So it’s only fair for clients to be able to clarify them so I can recheck and correct those errors.
The most exciting part of the commissioned work is seeing the design come to life. Sometimes, clients would send photos of the building process as well as the final build. It’s an amazing feeling seeing something I made in digital software become a real structure built with LEGO® bricks and pieces. Here are some photos of actual builds of my commissioned works.