Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Regular readers of this blog might recall me mentioning a while back that I'd tried out LEGO's Factory feature whereby you design your own creation using a free computer-aided design package (LDD), upload the design to LEGO, and they'll pick the parts and send them out to you plus generate a set of building instructions. I designed a LEGO college to sit alongside my Modular Buildings, and although the whole process wasn't cheap, I was pretty impressed overall. You can see a screenshot of my LEGO college below (click pic to enlarge).

Not bad, but something's missing....
Anyway, LEGO have recently overhauled and rebranded this D.I.Y. service. It's now called LEGO 'Design by Me' and it boasts an upgraded version of LDD amongst other things, so I thought I'd give it a try. I touched upon my experiences with the new version of LDD in the previous blog post I mentioned above, but in summary, it definitely seems slicker than the old version - virtual pieces seem to snap together more readily, requiring less contortionism and rotation to manoeuvre them into place, and there are new features such as the ability to bend or twist certain elements such as chains.

Rather than design something totally new, I decided instead to go with the more modest objective of building an extension to my previous creation. While I think my LEGO college sits reasonably comfortably alongside my official Modular Buildings, I'd always regretted not adding a basement level in order to elevate it to the height of the other buildings. My trial of Design By Me presented me with an excellent opportunity to remedy the situation, however, so that's what I decided to do. Not very sexy, but it should at least serve to illustrate the process....

I started out by importing my original LEGO college LDD file into the new version of LDD. This occurred seamlessly. Then I built downwards from the bottom of the original design, attaching a nice curved staircase (the design of which was shamelessly plagiarised from Set 10190 Market Street....) and thus elevating the whole college building by a total of 4 bricks and 1 plate. You can see an LDD screenshot from this stage of the process below.

LDD screenshot - new improved LEGO college !
Next, I deleted all the parts from the original college building as all I wanted to purchase this time round was the basement extension. You can see a screenshot of the basement extension alone below (click to enlarge).
There's no pavement area in front of the basement as my intent was to cannabalise the plates and tiles from the pavement area in front of the existing model rather than order duplicates.

Having designed my basement extension I uploaded the file and was prompted to design some packaging, a process which consisted largely of choosing from a number of preset options and adding text. I was also given the option of ordering printed building instructions. This was not to my knowledge possible with the previous Factory iteration and is I think an excellent new feature. So I ordered printed instructions (which I think were free) and moved on to the payment stage. My design, which contains a total of 244 pieces, worked out at £38.62 Sterling not including shipping. I confirmed my order, paid, and waited for my creation to arrive. Time from order to receipt was a little under 3 weeks, and you can see pics of the unboxing below (click to enlarge).

I made that !
Box with sleeve removed

The goodies within...

Building instructions
I thought the set was more slickly packaged than my previous Factory creation, and it was really nice to have printed building instructions. I do however think that LEGO need to perhaps expend a little more thought on the building instructions - there were in my opinion too many building steps for such a modest creation, necessitating 2 instruction books. Perhaps the instructions are 'dumbed down' somewhat in anticipation of a younger customer ?

Building was as ever a pleasure, and in no time at all my basement extension was complete (see below).

LEGO College basement extension
Finally, all that was left for me to do was to attach the basement extension to the rest of the building and slide my newly-extended college into place on my desk between Green Grocer and Fire Brigade. Perfect !

Newly extended LEGO College
New LEGO College on Modular Row
The new Design By Me process worked very well, I thought - LDD is easy to use, and once the design was complete it was a breeze to upload the creation and design the packaging. Some may grumble at the price - £38.62 + shipping for 244 pieces is certainly not cheap - but as well as the pieces themselves you're also paying for someone to physically hand-pick the pieces for you and for the custom-designed packaging and building instructions. You're also indirectly funding the ongoing development of the LDD tool (which is free to download, and excellent in my opinion). And when you look at it like that, I guess the price doesn't seem so bad....


  1. the additional bottom floor with stairs really makes your moc even better. great work!

  2. very nice building! matches in really well with it's neighbours. I'm in the middle of designing a building to partner these two as well.
    tell me, what is the back view of your new one like, is it a closed-in building or does it have levels inside?
    most of the buildings i've done are facade only (ie. open back), but i'm considering changing my style...

  3. Arrrgh, just found that Design By Me service was discontinued some 11 months ago...

  4. Afraid so - I wrote this piece in December 2010....