Thursday, April 1, 2010

From Fan to Employee

No secrets here, this post is directly inspired by Mark Stafford.

I love him and hate him at the same time.

I knew the name of Mark Stafford from Lugnet, but once I came back from my hiatus I had either forgotten or never knew that he was also Lego Nabii, or just Nabii. I even posted on Classic Space Forums how I had "found this awesome builder on Brickshelf named Nabii, You guys ever heard of him?"

Anyway, imagine this scenario: you are an AFOL of some renown within the community. Your models are very original and detailed. You can build just about anything. You get an offer to work as a designer for Lego. Of course you are going to take it!

Suddenly you are working for two masters.

The one master is your own creativity. The other is the company. For whom do you offer your best work? Yourself or your boss? Can your boss tell if you are holding back for yourself?

If you know anything about design, then you know there is a lot of offerings and a few winners. I don't follow Brick Journal, so I've missed Mark Stafford's incite to the Lego design process, but I imagine there are reams worth of pencil drawings for things that have never been produced. The company owns those images. The designers can not go home and build something they saw in the Lego files or drew out at their desk as part of their assignment.

How hard it must be to design stuff all day long for one master, then go home and find that all of your ideas for the day are gone. Maybe on occasion you can draw something out for yourself, even build it! But you have to be careful to make sure it is not something you will be fired for.

For instance, Mark Stafford has taken some officially released models and "improved" on them after their release. Any fan can do so at any time. But does an employee have to make sure his "improvement" does not challenge Lego's copyrights on file?

Regardless of how lenient or tight Lego's restrictions on their designers are, it can not be easy to be a fan and designer at once.

Then we have the marketing.

Mark Stafford is a name we can trust. But as a fan, he might be just as excited as we are to get his hands on the latest and most awesome sets. After all, designers might have access to a few things that the average fan does not, but they still have to wait for official release dates before they can buy the sets they designed, and therefor pad their personal collections with the latest parts and colors. Also, as a fan, a designer will want to tell everyone all that they know as soon as they can. Thus we get what is essentially a marketing blitz from Lego designers who happen to also be fans: they love the product as much as any normal fan, but it doesn't hurt to share "inside" knowledge and boost excitement just a little bit more.

Already, Mark Stafford is promoting the next "big thing" from Lego that he is working on. Sure, it's just the word "secret" in list in the middle of a paragraph, but it's enough to make his (and Lego's) fans salivate over the eventual forthcoming inside scoop. He knows this. Lego knows this. The fans know this. It's a symbiotic relationship.

So, yeah, I love him and hate him. But what can you do right? I can't wait to see what he's been finalizing these past months.

No comments: