Model designer

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A model designer is a an employee of LEGO or Merlin Entertainment who designs and builds models for display at such venues as Theme Parks, Discovery Centers and trade shows.

This article covers the differing roles and rankings of LEGO master builders. These range from assemblers of predesigned structures to the top level Master Designers. It is also important to clarify roles and responsibilities between LEGO and LEGOLAND model builders and designers, structure, and daily job tasks.

Model Designers and Builders are supervised by a Show and Events Manager, who is a subordinate of the Marketing department.

Contents

LEGOLAND Parks Hierarchy

Model Shops are part of the Maintenance Department at each of the parks, so the job is comparable to other trades in such department, such as Painters, Electricians, HVAC technician, Water Quality Technician, Ride Technicians. Model Builders and Designers are also under constant call from the Public Relations and Marketing Department, due to the fact that the position is sold as the "coolest job at the park" to have. Model designers are responsible for all maintenance of the existing models in the park, which takes about 1/4 of the work day.

Job responsibilities in a typical day are: Parkwide check and Miniland Check. During the first few hours before parks open, walks are made to inspect that models around the park are not broken, presenting a safety hazard to the public. In the event a model is broken, it is repaired on site, or uninstalled and brought back to the shop, where it will be repaired. (Typically a list of models that need repair exists, so that model will be in put in a queue.

Miniland Check consists in a walk around the clusters, to inspect that miniland people, cars and structures are not broken. Miniland check is a neverending job, because the way LEGO models age at exterior locations. Typically a cluster is chosen and new copies of models are introduced when the originals fade.

LEGO and LEGOLAND Parks Model Builders and Designers

LEGO model builders and designers are part of the Shows and Events branch which falls under the Marketing department. Their main job is to promote and support New Toy Product Lines, by building large scale models of key product items and product lines. Another job is to fabricate thousands of 'buildups' which are the contents of certain product items, to be displayed in the typical plexi glass box at many stores. One other important role, is participating in "Building Happenings" where model builders interact with children, adults at venues such as Malls, and other points where potential customers can be recruited. Building events that LEGO has had in the past are: Space Shuttle Building event, Castle Building event, and depending on certain product lines, events like the YODA and Harry Potter Building event have also taken place.


A ranking system exists in the world of LEGO designers, or LEGO model builders. From lowest to highest: All positions fall under the Maintenance Department, and are Hourly.

  1. LEGO Copy Builder
  2. LEGO Model Repairer
  3. LEGO Gluer
  4. LEGO Model Builder
  5. LEGO Model Maker
  6. LEGO Master Model Maker
  7. LEGO Model Designer
  8. LEGO Master Designer


Other Roles related to the job.

  1. LEGO Animation Technician
  2. LEGO Animation Resetter
  3. LEGO Animator


LEGO Designers - Product Designers

  1. LEGO Prototype builder
  2. LEGO Designer
  3. LEGO Graphic Artist


The roles of each of these are discussed below.

The LEGO copy builder

The lowest ranking employee. Usually assigned to mass produce copies of the same model over and over, for example: Christmas tree ornaments, Ronald MacDonald models, and set buildups. LEGO copy builders copy building LEGO sets over and over and over again. Many AFOLs would consider this a very boring job as it has no creative input. There are a large number of such people working in the Czech Republic in a state of the art facility for model production. Around 90% of the models displayed in stores across the globe originate from this facility. Wages are usually very low by the standards of richer countries. No design experience, nor capabilities are necessary nor expected for this job. Pay rate starts at about 8.50 hourly, as at June 2007. Positions to grow into are: Model Shop Supervisor, Management, or other positions where design experience or skills are not required.

The LEGOLAND model repairer

The model repairer responsible for fixing, repairing, de-installing and reinstalling models in the park. The tasks usually involve digging up dirt, dealing with spiders, (Black Widows at the California Park), animal droppings and horticultural chemicals.. Once models are at the workshop, model repairers use tools inclusing chisels, hammers, and sawblades. Dremel(r) Tools are sometimes used.

LEGO model repairer

This position requires more experience, as repairing a broken model is not as easy as it may seem. LEGO models that go out to a store, such as Toys R Us, or others, usually receive a beating after a while. It is the job of a LEGO model Repairer to fix them. Usually this is done in the field, where there is very little to do as far as selection of bricks. In the past, the company had large workshops called shows & events, or model facilities, where a group of model repairers or copy builders take care of this typically mundane task. As with copy builders, no design background is necessary. Pay rate ranges from 10.00 to 12.00 Hourly.

LEGO Gluer

This position involves the copy building and gluing of a LEGO model that has been provided by a model designer. The LEGO Gluer follows a prototype and blueprint and has no artistic input as to how the model. The more experienced gluers, move on from doing simpler build ups, to copying larger models, sometimes working with an animator. Gluers have some exposure to the chemicals that bond the LEGO bricks together such as MEK, and also GBL.Pay rate fluctuates between 8.50 to 12.00 Dollars Hourly (as at July 2007).

LEGOLAND Model Builder / Model Maker

The role of the model builder, is that of creating and copying models for the LEGO theme parks. In the USA a Model Builder is the equivalent of a Model Maker in Europe.

Skills in 3D design and color are required. Previous building experience is useful. This is a highly coveted position, emphasized by media attention. An Art director or Marketing manager usually drebriefs the head of the team of builders to satisfy certain campaigns, such as Bionicle, Racers, etc. The models built by the Model Builders are either large sculptures for retail locations, sculptures or buildings for permanent theme park installation, or models for theme park special events (such as the LEGO tower) Retail sculptures are usually 6 or 12 times larger than the actual LEGO product that is being depicted. Models for the theme parks range from small Miniland scale vehicles through 7' miniland skyscrapers, and 'park' models from a few feet to 20+ feet tall.

Model Builders may also be expected to participate in model installation. More than simply inserting a model into its planned environment, this aspect requires using shovels, pick-axes, power drills and other construction tools, and 'on the job training' is given by senior members of the team.

In the US, pay is approximately double the state (CA) minimum wage. 30K per year. Versus an average household income of 80K for people living close to the Park. Historically, this was the entry position into the world of model building, after 2001, 3 lower pay grades were created in order to reach this level, which usually takes about 2 to 3 years minimum. Saving the payroll budget thousands for those first years.

LEGO Model Builder

Skills in 3D design and color are required. Previous building experience is often necessary. Nowadays only a handful of these builders remain, emphasizing on creating models that bring media attention to the Company. A Marketing manager directs the team of builders to satisfy certain campaigns, such as Bionicle, Racers, etc. The models built by the Model Builders are either large sculptures for retail locations, or models for special events (such as the LEGO tower). Retail sculptures are usually 6 or 12 times larger than the actual LEGO product that is being depicted. The LEGO Web constantly features them as having the coolest job possible. Model builders are usually seen in public at conventions and other places where the product is shown in a high profile.

Model builders for LEGO are usually compensated at a rate that makes them not move to California to work at their counterparts ModelShop.

Model Designer

A model designer is usually a very talented individual who has advanced knowledge of the use of LEGO. This job also, requires talent and skills in color, sculpting and other arts. A Model Designer is usually responsible for guiding a group of model makers on a project. A designer will direct artistically the group, and also ensure quality within the shop. One disadvantage of the job is that pay is very low compared to similar roles in other industries. A college Degree is optional, when considered for this positon. Roles usually encompass all lower positions, plus some added responsibilities.

Senior Model Designer

This position is gained once a designer has spent certain time with the company. The senior designer is now responsible for directing the group in projects and guiding them artistically. It usually takes at least 5 to 7 years of experience to even be considered for this position. A Senior Designer will ensure that the rest of the group is maintaining excellent standards of model design. Pay is comparable to an entry level position in an art related field, industrial design apprenticeship, internship at a design firm, or similar. Pay Rate starts at 14.00 up to 19.00 with no more than 0.50 cents payraise increments per year. This is the only position that by years spent at the Park, would be considered for Saturday and Sundays as days off. All other positions are expected to work weekends and have two moving days off.

Master Model Designer

Although it is predominately a marketing title, this is typically an honorary title given to some of the most brilliant designers that have worked for the company at any given time. One person holds this title in the US. It is not a salaried positon.

LEGO Animation Resetter

The role of the animation resetter primarily consists of miniland reset. Miniland resetting is looking after the animation in Miniland. Other roles are to help the animation technicians in daily repairs, of animation on LEGO models, Miniland or other models. The animation resetter is an entry level position, in pay and experience, which doesn't require a college degree, just some knowledge of electronics, electricity, mechanical components. Knowledge of Lego design in not necessary. The usual work day for an animation resetter starts by turning on all animation in Miniland, then walking around miniland to ensure all cars, trains, and other animation is working properly, and if not, reset it to operation. If the animation breaks down, it will need to be looked at by an animation technician. The day ends by turning off miniland, and other animation. There is very a small amount of interaction with Lego bricks or Lego building at all. Is is actually not part of the job description.

LEGO Animation Technician

The roles of the animation technician is to maintain, repair and design new animation for the Lego models. The position is above entry level, but requires a few years to learn all tricks of the trade. Requires no college degree, but usually the following skills are looked for: knowledge in electronic, mechanical, PLC programming, welding, and the use of shop tools such as drills, bench presses, concrete cutters, etc. While some skills are highly technical, an animation technician will also be involved in the installation of models, and the animation that provide them with movement, sound and light, digging up trenches in the dirt is an essential part of the job, especially with the installation of new rides and attractions that contain Lego models. The traditional job of an animation technician would consist of developing and designing in conjunction with a Lego designer, the animation within a Lego model, so when a miniland building gets built, the animation technician will work at the same time on all aspects of animation for that building. Although the job requires certain specialized skills, it is not considered a highly specialized job, and is compensated about the same as that of a carpenter, of a welder, being far more encompassing of different sets of knowledge.

LEGO Animator

The LEGO animator is a role that has more or less disappeared. Traditionally, the animator works in conjunction with a designer in developing new models for stores, parks, and other displays. Good knowledge of electronics and motorized components are required. The last group of animators worked during the construction of the Gunzburg park, while thousands of new models were built.

Lego Animators are usually only found in Europe.

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