Tuesday, 15 April 2014

CUUSOO Exo Suit: the logo

Exciting news today; the LEGO® CUUSOO team have given New Elementary readers this exclusive first look at the official logo to be used on their forthcoming set, the Exo Suit! The set will be released in August 2014. Knowing how special the Exo Suit is to the fan community, the CUUSOO team took the unusual step of deciding to work hand-in-hand with AFOLs to decide how the set should be packaged and marketed. So the designer of the original Exo Suit, British AFOL Peter Reid, assembled a team and I was fortunate enough to be included.

There was great excitement in October 2013 when Peter's model passed the CUUSOO review. Even those of us who aren’t into Space and mecha were glad to finally see a model get approved that wasn't based on an existing object or licensed property.


Seemingly, things have been quiet on the Exo-front since then and the Ghostbusters project has been in the limelight - despite being approved later, the official set has been revealed first and it will be released in June, before the Exo Suit comes out sometime in August. Ghostbusters’ move forwards was unrelated to the Exo Suit, which has been happily moving along on its original production schedule.

Having fans direct your marketing is a fairly radical approach, given that TLG have plenty of expert employees who actually do this shizzle for a living. But TLG’s relationship with their fans has been experimental and interesting ever since they realised in the late ‘90s that Mindstorms hackers could teach them a thing or two, and brought them on board to help develop the next version of the product. Admittedly, we fans would like it if TLG did even more experimental and interesting things with us, but in the grand scheme of things, they’re a pretty forward-thinking company in this regard. Indeed, they’ve never involved fans in the marketing of a set quite as much as they are with the Exo Suit.

The AFOL team.
Back row: Andrew Hamilton, Jeremy Williams, Peter Reid, Tim Goddard, Drew Maughan.
Front row: Tim Johnson, Julie Greig, Yvonne Doyle, Ian Greig.
Absent: Chris Salt.
Photo © J. Broberg
As you may expect, there’s a lot that we're not permitted to tell you at the moment – undoubtedly, all the things you actually want to know! But the CUUSOO team have kindly agreed to me writing this post to give some insight into the process so far. So what has this actually entailed to date? Essentially, two all-day workshops which were held in Stansted, UK, in January and March with LEGO employees and us AFOLs. The first meeting mostly dealt with how the set should be presented and packaged, and the second discussed how the marketing campaign should pan out.

In case you're wondering what these meetings looked like, Andrew Hamilton (Wami Delthorn) has created this extremely accurate and realistic model. :O)



January’s meeting was highly creative. We didn’t have the finalised CUUSOO Exo Suit model to play with (nor at the March meeting), but we were shown an image that made us all squeee. The big fear that many FOLs have about the CUUSOO Exo Suit is that it won’t be as cool as Peter’s original, which enjoyed the luxury of being full of illegal and weak connections that would never stand up to a moment of a child’s attention. I should know… I’ve broken Peter’s Exo Suit more than once, including at one of these meetings! A teeny knock (honest) seemed to cause every limb to ping itself off in a crazed domino effect. (Self-ejecting feet are both a cool and irritating play feature.)

I can’t yet comment on the redesign, suffice to say it was undertaken by Mark Stafford who has designed many of LEGO’s greatest mecha such as Ninjago 9448 Samurai Mech; he’s also an AFOL and good friend of Peter. In late 2013 Peter flew to Billund to finalise the design with Mark, so whilst it is (by necessity) altered, it’s been in safe hands all along.

We were split into two groups to start brainstorming ideas around the possible story behind the Exo Suit. As you probably know, because I always go on about it, Peter co-authored an unofficial book with Tim Goddard (who naturally was also part of this team) called LEGO Space: Building the Future. It re-imagined the various LEGO ‘Classic Space’ themes in a new cohesive narrative - and featured the original Exo Suit. So the CUUSOO Exo Suit ideally needed to work within that universe, and the CUUSOO team were cool with that. But what was the backstory - where did the Exo Suit come from, what makes it exciting? And what is the scenario of the set itself, what is the minifig’s role? (Yes, don’t worry, I can confirm there’s still a minifig in the set!)

Concept sketch by Jeremy Williams.

Pages of ideas and sketches were scribbled and when we re-combined the two teams, it was interesting how many concepts were similar. As for the packaging, CUUSOO boxes don’t follow a template (aside from a few essential regular inclusions) so the brief was open. Unanimously, we wanted a modern riff on the original Classic Space look and feel from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, and as you saw from the logo this is indeed the direction it’s been taken.


A marketing idea from the first meeting, but will it be used? (And before you guys ask; the little Exo Suit image in the bottom right is Peter’s original model, not the CUUSOO version!)
Photo © I. Greig.

We also brainstormed a range of marketing ideas to help promote the set, and everything was taken back to Billund where things progressed rapidly. TLG and Peter did a lot of work in between the two meetings and we were thrilled to commence March’s workshop by being shown the all-but-final artwork for the box and booklet. Once again I’m sorry I can’t share details yet, but hey at least we’ve been allowed to show you that Classic Spacey logo!

Everyone, including Peter, loved what they saw and the agenda moved on to the marketing campaign. Of course TLG will be reaching a mass market with this set, but as far as they are concerned the pre-release marketing is all about exciting the “alpha fans” - the TFOL and AFOL fan community. So they were extremely open to hearing how we felt the set should be promoted, and when. Our ideas from January had been written up into potential concepts by TLG’s internal Consumer Marketing Agency (CMA) who seemed quite pleased to have received a brief already brimming with campaign ideas! The next few hours were spent reviewing and finessing these, deciding which were strongest and when was the ideal time to run them.

I have to admit, the cynic in me did at first think we’d give TLG all our ideas and they’d just go away and change them beyond recognition. But I’m glad to say that wasn’t the case and that the whole release of the Exo Suit will be a true co-creation by fans and TLG, just like the model itself. Sadly there are still months to wait, but I hope this little peek has whetted your appetites!





20 comments:

  1. Great piece Tim Looking forward to this Epic set

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  2. Thanks for the info, but it got me thinking. Isn't the inclusion of Exo Suit in that book a violation of LEGO CUUSOO's guidelines: "6. When you submit a project on LEGO CUUSOO, you're giving us the rights we need to commercialize your idea. This also means you may not sell anything related to your project independently. You may not sell building instructions, custom kits, or anything related to your project. We will remove projects without notice if we learn you are commercializing content submitted to LEGO CUUSOO. You may share and distribute photos and building instructions free of charge on your own website and online profiles"? Or was that rule added later?

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    1. i think since the final product will be different it doesnt matter, and since lego owns the classic space stuff already, if they wanted to do something about the book they couldve even if the exo suit never existed... hell, if lego were real jerks like that, which they arent, theyd sue anyone whos ever made and or uploaded any lego related thing ever because youre using their toy product without permission.

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    2. Perhaps that rule was included to prohibit a realized project's owner from selling his/her set directly (in competition with TLG), so maybe they're not that interested in the book's sales, as it won't interfere with the actual product's sales. Still feels like they broke their own terms.

      And @Anonymous, uploading a photo of a MOC is much different from selling a MOC. That's not very relevant.

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  3. I am very excited for this to be produced! I'm a huge fan of Classic Space and I love Peter Reid's design. I plan on buying 2 or 3 of these. :-)

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  4. Hey, I heard you like blogs, so I blogged your blog. ;)

    http://www.brothers-brick.com/2014/04/15/inside-look-the-cuusoo-exosuit-project-news/

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  5. Thanks for the fascinating design insights! I love hearing about LEGO design and marketing from an inside perspective. It's good to hear the project is still motoring along on schedule and that fans (including the original builder) have been involved every step of the way.

    Mark Stafford's involvement in the redesign is great to hear about. He's definitely one of my favorite sci-fi set designers, and he always keeps an ear to the ground so he can come up with the best ways to please the AFOL community at large.

    Also, Pete Reid and Tim Goddard have the best T-shirts. Or some of the best, anyway... I've seen a brilliant Blacktron II long-sleeved tee at Brickfair.

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  6. These are the articles I subscribe for :)

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    1. I'm glad not everyone is here just for new elements ;O) Thanks Nate

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  7. Glad to read that TLG really cares about fans community.
    Can't wait for Classic Space résurrection !

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  8. As long as the set still includes all sorts of cool little grey bits for us Space builders and as long as the set still includes a suitable minifig it should be awesome.

    When I first saw pictures of the little ball joints from Mixels and the Chima Legend Beasts I immediately thought "those would be perfect for the Exo-Suit", lets hope the right people had the same idea as I did :)

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    1. Unfortunately I had to develop this while the ball joints were limited to Chima Legend Beasts and Mixels, though they are now available to every theme I couldn't use them for this - hopefully you'll still like the solutions I found and Pete actually helped me figure out some of them so hopefully you will!

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    2. I don't think using them would have made it so great anyway, as I find that they seem to make everything dreadfully rectangular.

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    3. I'm sorry, Mark, did you say grey orange and green classic space minifigures will be coming with this, with add on packs of every other color of minifig they make? That's awfully nice of you ;-D Really looking forward to seeing the final product, it's a collaborative match made in SPACE! heaven.

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  9. Hey, how about some more CUUSOO classic space submissions to vote through. This could the start of the long awaited classic space revival.

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  10. Absolutely, Peter's book 'Lego Space' is full of so many great designs that I'd love to be able to get my hands on - especially the re-imagined 70s sets.

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  11. So, if I had used illegal techniques when designing the Curiosity Rover LEGO model, I might have been able to go to Billund to help with the final design? Curse my engineering skills and all the LEGO research I did to make it so easy for my model to become an official LEGO set! Anyway, I appreciate the tantalizing tidbits of information on the development of this model. I voted for it and I plan to buy more than my fair share of this set when it is released!

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    1. Curse your brain's sudden but inevitable betrayal! Actually because you kept it straight system (KISSy) at least one of my friends was able to compete the rover from parts in their collection. His budget for sets is limited right now so had you gone all happy wacky on us he might never have had the chance. Thanks Stephen!

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  12. I really hope that they package this set like they used to.. A flip up front cover with windows to view the parts/minifigures. That would make me happy :-)

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