Creative Play Lab

My time within LEGO's product innovation and business disruption unit.

What is it?

The Creative Play Lab (CPL) within LEGO's Product and Marketing Department is the product innovation and business disruption unit, whose mission is to "build radically new, big, and fun LEGO® experiences that delight and inspire the builders of tomorrow."

On a day-to-day standpoint, it meant we would prototype, build, and test new consumer experiences, products, business models, marketing strategies, shopping experiences, technology — anything that could potentially impact new products and product development in the future. With a heavy focus on research, rapid development, and testing, we paired insights and research with company strategy to develop everything from proof-of-concepts to market pilots to full-blown products.

CPL's processes are that of agile iteration cycles using, where prototypes are created and evaluated quickly — through a number of different piloting and proving means — to learn whether or not it makes sense to continue work.

CPL Projects and Culture

Example projects done by CPL:

LEGO Mario
LEGO, Nintendo, and some smart play and tech.

LEGO Hidden Side
A spooky ghost-catching AR-enhanced playtheme

Some interviews that give an idea into its culture:

Magnus Goransson: Play - A talk from The Conference 2019.

Exploring the Future of LEGO Play - An interview with Erik Hansen, Sr Director of Tech Innovation

How I Got My Dream Job At LEGO - Interview with Senior Designer Dan Winger

My role within CPL

Official Duties

As a Design Manager Specialist:

  • Identify and conduct necessary research
  • Start and direct new projects
  • Take on the position of Design Lead on a variety of projects
  • Lead multi-disciplinary teams (including designers, project managers, marketing and biz dev, researchers, and engineers)
  • Contribute to the strategic direction of the department
  • Develop and implement new processes that improve design effectiveness
  • Contribute and lead skill-building and personal development in the design team

Unofficial Duties

In practice I took on a variety of roles in CPL. In some projects, I was a lead, in others I mostly helped shaped the design process before moving on. I have come onto a project temporarily as a specialist to help put out fires, and in some I just helped with coding or graphic design.

Even as a design leader, my role went from hands-on experimenter and prototyper to the person who spends most of their time in meetings trying to get stakeholder buy-in while handing off the day-to-day design work to the highly talented team.

I've given a talk on how to visually compose for film, I've helped design communal spaces, I've run roleplaying to help people better understand future scenarios, and, of course, I've built models out of LEGO bricks.

Tools learned and used

While I used a wide variety of creative tools while working at LEGO (everything from the Adobe Suite to Unity to post-its to paper prototypes), most of the new tools and methods I learned were directly related to things beyond the design. How to manage a team, how to lead workshops, how to surround an experience with a business mode, etc.

  • Design leadership and team management
  • Creating and modifying new design processes
  • Managing stakeholders and partner collaborations
  • Product/experience strategy
  • SCRUM and tools to manage it (Jira)
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Group Design Thinking Methogologies