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Grey... to Bley

A Member of LEGO Company's staff drops in here from time to time to answer questions from LEGO fans like you.

Grey... to Bley

Postby buhs » Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:31 pm

Here's a question... and please by all that is holy forgive me if this has been asked here before... or in an alternate universe... or by that comic book guy on the Simpsons (forgive me I don't know his name)... or by a level 40 guy on WOW... or a nymph in some other MMO I don't know about (is that enough of a disclaimer to prevent 90 million degrees of flaming?)... ok... here's my question to speak n' spell: why for the love of god, did LEGO change from "grey" colour (maybe I'm colour blind... note the Canadian/English/CORRECT spelling of "colour") to "Bley"...just wondering, now that the sets in my "LEGO Star Wars Room" don't match?
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Re: Grey... to Bley

Postby Solo » Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:38 pm

This horse died five years ago and people are still beating it. :|

From here:
(Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 15:25:20 GMT) LEGO Community Development Liaison Jake McKee wrote:
Subject: Color Change background

First off, I apologize for bringing this issue up again, but a promise is a promise. I said I would deliver more background info on the color change, and here it is. In an effort to reduce the almost certain flood of responses to this post, please understand that I am only posting the story, and won’t be debating the color change merits. My goal here is to simple share the real story of how the color change to be. Sorry for taking so long to get this out to you. In an effort to be 100% accurate, I wanted to fact check like mad before posting. I know that some people won’t believe this is the “real” story, but if you have a stack of Bibles, I’m ready to swear on them.

Now, on with the story! First a little background.

The Design Lab is an internal group at the LEGO Company who is responsible for overseeing the “system” aspects of everything the LEGO Company does. They’re the ones that maintain the element library, element history, “own” the element design process (working with others in the company), own and guide the growth of the element library (ensuring the element selection doesn’t get out of control like the late 90s), own the color palette, and many other tasks. Basically, they work to ensure that the system works long term, and is the most robust, consumer (kids and adults) friendly it can possibly be.

Around the beginning of 2000, we found ourselves with a color palette that was growing far too quickly, and far too organically. There wasn’t enough vision put into how we were expanding and adding new colors. The decision was made to apply the same type of thinking we now use in approaching the long term element design process to the color palette. The desired outcome was to create a color palette that would work effectively for years to come, and that could scale easily and correctly. We didn’t want to end up with the same out-of-control color situation as we did with elements in the late 90s – that was a hard lesson to learn, but we learned it well.

This initiative led to a revised color palette. This new color palette included some deletions of low-use colors, additions of new colors, and some tweaks to the existing colors. The goal in all these changes was completely and totally focused on creating the absolute best set of LEGO colors possible.

There has been a great deal of assumptions posted about the reasons we made the changes. Everything from trying to copy MEGABloks, to trying to save money on recycling parts. I know it seems hard to believe (unless you really think about the long-term history and attitude of this company), but it really is as simple as trying to create a sustainable and consistent color palette for the future.

As one part of the process of defining this new, long-term color palette, we tested the new color palette with children in the US and Germany. I won’t get into the details of how we actually tested, as I don’t have those details. But suffice to say, the tests came back overwhelmingly positive.

A planned roll-out plan of these new colors was planned and implemented for all products produced starting January 2004. The thinking was that it was much better to simply make a quick switch to the new colors, assuming (correctly, from what little we’ve heard from non-AFOL sources; incorrectly from what we’ve heard from the AFOLs) that the change would go fairly unnoticed. Changes are made regularly to the bricks, to make them better in some way. Improved clutching power, easier part separation, and many other things I don’t begin to claim to understand are regularly tweaked to help improve the elements. With the LEGO Company’s desire to keep their decades-long reputation for quality, we’re constantly working to improve things that almost all the time, consumers won’t even notice. I know a statement like this will open a can of worms. The point I’m making is just that we are constantly improving little small things trying to make the overall system even better.

Of course, one thing that Design Lab was unaware of at the time of implementation was the incredible impact on the AFOLs. It’s hard to remember, but when this “color palette cleanup” process was first initiated, LEGO Direct was one person – Brad Justus. The LEGO Community Development team was more than 3 years away from being formed. My role was both the Community Liaison (30%) and Web Producer (90%) – an amount that adds up to more than 100%!

Unfortunately, I simply wasn’t able to carry the AFOL message to the Design Lab in time. For that I apologize. I know I’ve let you down, and because of it, a good number of people no longer trust me and/or the company.

Right or wrong, agree or disagree (yes, I know that you all believe it was the wrong decision and disagree with it), please understand that we fully acknowledge and apologize for our poor implementation. I know, I know – many of you believe that the change should never have been made.

Because I’ve been working closely with Design Lab (together with my LCD Team colleagues) to help carry your message of frustration and concern, they now understand your concerns probably better than any group in the company. Again, I apologize for having not done a better job, earlier, in getting the AFOLs introduced to this group.

Many, especially those in the 1000steine community, have voiced their concerns with my/our efforts to help find a bridge between old and new. Some feel, as was posted on LUGNET, that efforts like the colors bags are “tranquilizers”. That was not at all the intention. Since we still believe in the changes (not the implementation, mind you), and the costs would simply be incredible prohibitive at this point (we lost a bit of money last year...), we’ve tried to do our best to help deliver to you as much as we can to help this transition. Is that trying to “keep you quiet”? Not to me… to me, it’s trying to respond to your needs. Those things include:

* Admitting that we made a mistake in our implementation
* Defining in writing, what colors have been locked i.e. defined as “universal”, thus being “untouchable” (will have a full list once it’s ready in a few weeks)
* Agreeing to consult core consumers (AFOLs and child enthusiasts – Club kids) when making future core changes.
* Working on solutions to provide either old bricks or new bricks to help ease the transition.

I don’t begin to think that we’ll never make another mistake again. After all, the company is made up of humans, and humans make mistakes. What I do hope you know, or agree is that we will do a better job of trying to ensure this type of situation doesn’t happen again.

I hope this helps clear things up.

Jake
---
Jake McKee
Community Liaison
LEGO Community Development

;)
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Re: Grey... to Bley

Postby buhs » Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:48 pm

Ohhhh.... I see. Don, sorry I was 5 year too late in this comment... but appreciate the lack of "flaming"... even with the dead horse comment... your "brother in Star Wars Lego" RK. ;)
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Re: Grey... to Bley

Postby Solo » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:00 pm

If the info was easier to find I probably would have been a bigger jerk about it.
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Re: Grey... to Bley

Postby Lego Engineer » Fri Jul 17, 2009 6:44 pm

I'm satisfied with that explanation. I'm just curious, what was the "colour problem" from the 90's?
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Re: Grey... to Bley

Postby legodavee123 » Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:29 pm

Lego Engineer wrote:I'm satisfied with that explanation. I'm just curious, what was the "colour problem" from the 90's?


Around the late 90's, Lego started deciding it would expand into other markets. Somewhere around 1998 or 1999, they publicly announced their plan to be the "best brand" in households with families by 2005-- IE, they wanted to be the equivalent of, say, Disney in terms of brand recognition and perceived quality.

To that end, Lego was jumping headlong into many different diverse markets all at once (video games, clothing lines, licensing). One of the ways they started expanding was things like Lego Scala and Belville, along with licensing and other "trendy" playthemes that used other colors (Rock Raiders, Adventurers, Cyberslam, Paradisa, etc). The color palette exploded from maybe a few dozen in the late 80's to probably 150 or more in the late 90's.

As Jake said, these all grew organically. The way that the new colors were added was that each department asked for colors that went with THEIR particular product, but weren't planned with respect to what other departments were looking for or would find useful down the line. The result was there was a mish-mash of colors that were exceedingly difficult to keep straight. For every color they wanted to produce, they had to store vast quantities of pre-colored ABS pellets, which weren't immediately used-- costing tons in storage space, and tons in color matching when refilling different color orders with their plastics suppliers. For example, they easily had 7 different colors of green, where something like 3 or 4 would have easily sufficed.

Anyway, that's a bit more detail on the lead-in to the color change, and the problem that they were looking to solve.

DaveE
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Re: Grey... to Bley

Postby Lego Engineer » Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:36 pm

Ok. Thanks for the answer.
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