Photo by Rasmus Degnbol/Redux
Since childhood, Chris Perron, ’14 BDes, has considered himself a freestyle Lego builder — preferring to make DIY creations instead of following the instructions. Fast-forward a few years, and dreaming up new designs for the colourful bricks is now his nine-to-five.
After multiple job applications to the toy mogul, the University of Alberta industrial design alumnus was hired about a year ago as a junior designer at Lego’s head office in Billund, Denmark, where he designs new sets for the Lego Super Heroes and Brickheadz lines. He spends most of his days building — either digitally on a computer or with the actual bricks. (Someone’s got to do it, right?)
We asked Perron what it’s like to have his dream job and to find out if working for the iconic company is as fun as it seems. (Spoiler alert: it is).
So, I heard Lego head office has a slide — confirm/deny?
There is a slide. It’s a quick way to get from upstairs to downstairs. I can only assume people do use it from time to time. Unfortunately, it’s not in the building that I work in, so I don’t see it very often.
But I presume your office is as fun as we’d imagine, right?
Every shelf and open space is crammed with awesome new models and concepts and stuff that people build just for fun. It’s very inspiring to see it everywhere you look. What makes it different from the average office — besides there being Lego pieces all over the place — is the general atmosphere. People really love what they’re doing and are having fun doing it. You can always hear chatter and laughter in the office.
Lego’s purpose is to be fun, but have you ever given any thought to the impact that Lego has on people’s lives? How do you feel about that?
It’s very exciting and rewarding. When I was working at the Lego Store in Edmonton, I would interact with guests and fans on a daily basis. Some would share their excitement toward the products they were playing with and building, and others would share personal experiences of how keeping busy building helped them curb a bad habit or meet like-minded people that shared their passion. Now it feels even more rewarding, actually getting to work on and design these sets.
Did Lego bricks make it into any of your industrial design projects at the U of A? I can’t imagine they’d make comfy couches.
Sometimes I would use Lego to make a sketch model of a piece of furniture I was designing to figure out the forms quickly. I also took an exhibit design course in which my project was a hypothetical display for Lego House, the Lego museum, which just opened in Billund.
How does your industrial design education influence your work today?
It taught me a lot of different skills, like understanding that a design isn’t precious and that it needs to be reworked again and again to get it just right. I built Lego quite a bit before, and it was mostly to make stuff that I thought looked cool. Now I’m asking questions like, “Who is this for?” and “Will they think it’s cool?” and “How will they play with it?”
Do you have any advice for people chasing their dream jobs?
Be prepared for a lot of hard work, dedication and rejection. I think I went through 15 applications before getting this job. I just tried to learn from every experience, hit the ground running and thought about what I would do differently next time.
Oxford Dictionary put the Danish word hygge [pronounced “hue-gah”] on its short list for word of the year in 2016. What’s that all about?
From what I’ve gathered, it’s about being cosy in your home. But it’s also more than just how your home looks and feels — it’s about being free from stress and feeling very calm and relaxed. Candles are very popular in Denmark since they help create this atmosphere. I think it’s something that would definitely be welcomed in Canada, since we’re often trapped inside, hiding from the cold and snow.