Mr Kossmann, industrial designers usually dream of a grand design and MOMA. You dedicate yourself to LEGO Technic. How did this come about?
I simply enjoy developing new LEGO Technic models with my colleagues and bringing joy to people of all ages all over the world. LEGO Technic sets are particularly popular with children; they arouse their curiosity and interest in building. But adult LEGO fans also love our models because of their technical functions and exciting construction challenges. Can you think of anything better than designing products that are the dreams of both children and adults?
Designers today set the trends but can no longer offer solutions because the tasks are too complex for designers. Nowadays dozens of specialists are needed. What’s it like in your "trend workshop"?
I don’t see limits as negative in any way. On the contrary: They provide a framework that I can work in. Otherwise there is no beginning and no end. The basis is a good briefing. I need information about the type of model, the functions that are possible and the age group for which the product is intended. With this information I can estimate the size and complexity of the model and design a first prototype. This is my framework.
Is your work primarily a way of making men's dreams come true?
It is true that a lot of adults still like building - either alone or with their children - as it revives the memories of the past. It’s often a good way to switch off because they usually get so absorbed when they are building with LEGO bricks.
Why do you find it so exciting to keep developing new LEGO models based on real-life examples from all sorts of different fields?
I am a big fan of machines of all kinds: Lorries, cranes, sports cars, aeroplanes, tractors - they all fascinate me because of their technology and the sometimes complex functions. I find it really motivating to analyse precisely this complexity, to understand the functions and then to build an authentic replica with LEGO Technic elements.
Are we right in saying that it is the Technic line that makes LEGO cool today because Lego Technic stands for progress?
Progress can be experienced in all our product lines and we are constantly surprising our fans with new building experiences. LEGO Technic has a very clear DNA and we have been focussing on realistic models with true-to-life features for 40 years. In 2019, we took the technical functions of the models to a new level with the new CONTROL+ app. On the LEGO Technic Liebherr excavator, the app allows you to move the boom, arm and bucket via the touch screen, so that the controls are even more realistic.
What limits are there when it comes to material and real life models? Or is it true to say that LEGO Technic has "no limits"?
There are always limits, but still every year we try to push the limits a little bit further. Our LEGO Technic building system and newly developed functional elements make this possible. For example, we can even build complex functions such as a sequential 8-speed gearbox. Most notably, our legendary, drivable 1:1 model of the LEGO Technic Bugatti Chiron demonstrates that you can really build anything with LEGO bricks and elements - including all the rough edges.
How many parts that are used in the Liebherr R 9800 excavator, for example, can be used for other models?
When developing new elements, we designers must also always keep the complex production processes in mind. This means that before we develop a new element, we check carefully whether we really need it or whether we can use an existing one. It must be possible to build sports cars or aircraft with the same elements that are used for an excavator. Newly developed elements must always be universally applicable.
Can you tell us how long it takes from the decision to design a Liebherr R 9800 excavator until it is ready for serial production?
The Liebherr excavator is the largest hydraulic excavator in the world. It is bigger than a house and weighs over 800 tons. Translating such a huge vehicle into a LEGO model was a huge and exciting challenge and I wanted to do it right away! Of course, it takes a long time to develop a model like that. It all started with the analysis of the original excavator, both how it is made and how it works. We even had the chance to take a ride ourselves and experience how it works. That was really impressive! All in all, we then worked for over nine months on the development of the model.
Hand on heart, is LEGO Technic still a toy or has it become a philosophy and if so, what wisdom will you be presenting us with next year?
LEGO Technic stands for many things: it is a toy, fun, passion, hobby, fascination. Everyone feels this differently. And that's a good thing. My personal ambition is to keep adding something new, a new function or a new element. So 2020 will still be exciting!
Mr Kossmann, thank you for the interview.