Design for LEGO, live abroad, and do it all with your partner by your side.
It’s the stuff of dreams for many, and reality for Wes and Lillie Talbott, recent Columbus College of Art & Design grads who have followed their passion for creativity — and each other — to Denmark, where they both work for the LEGO Group.
Lillie was looking for a challenge, and upon transferring to a color theory class, asked her roommate who was strong in the class. Her roommate pointed out “a quiet guy with rather epic sideburns,” recalled Lillie.
“On our first assignment, we were told to switch pieces with someone and critique/evaluate their piece. I marched over to his table, took his piece and gave him mine. That was our introduction!” she said. “We joke that I couldn’t beat him (especially in color theory!), so I married him.”
Not to say that either of the Talbotts were slouches in the classroom: Lillie, Class of 2013 valedictorian, was president of the CCAD Honors Council and director of the college’s first pop-up store; both she and Wes were named Outstanding Seniors in their graduating class.
The Talbotts married in June 2013, and relocated to Denmark in September of that year after Wes, who was offered freelance work for the LEGO Group as a CCAD senior, was subsequently offered a full-time position at the company. He’s now a Senior Designer Specialist, focusing on model design for the LEGO Elves design team.
“My daily work involves receiving briefs for my new models from my Creative Lead, sketching out ideas for that model either on paper or by building a rough “sketch model” out of physical bricks, building the model digitally on the computer (which allows me to check the cost of the mode, among many other things), and, most importantly, attending design meetings where we share with the team what we’ve been doing, ask for and receive feedback on our models, and discuss important deadlines,” Wes said.
“What I enjoy most about the work,” said Wes, “is that it is always changing and it always stays exciting. There are different phases in the process that require different types of thinking, some more creative, some more practical, and the variety of ways I get to use my skills and imagination is endless.”
Lillie worked for some time as a freelance graphic designer before eventually joining LEGO Group herself. She now is a Senior Concept Designer in one of LEGO Group’s front-end departments, what she describes as “a highly innovative part of the company that’s always thinking of the next big thing.”
(Lillie was involved in early concept development and research for the LEGO DC Super Hero Girls line, which launched at Christmas; most of her work focuses on early-phase concept innovation, and therefore must stay under wraps.)
In her position, Lillie is a generalist, a job that “involves a bit of everything,” she said. “I work in concept development, which calls for all my design skills: color, design, drawing, critique, prototyping, craftsmanship, layout, graphic design, and, of course, model building."
“I get to use my research skills to seek trends and develop consumer insights. There are also ample opportunities for me to practice my presentation and speaking, internally. I love the variety,” said Lillie.
The workplace culture isn’t too shabby, either.
“I love all the people I work with,” Wes said. “We all get stressed out sometimes, but we also goof off, sing together at the building table, shoot each other with foam dart guns, and play card games during our lunch break.”
“My team is incredibly diverse and an absolute pleasure to work with,” said Lillie. “We are from all over the world, each bringing a unique viewpoint in terms of culture and play.”
“Designing toys and play means that you have to play,” she said. “We have a culture of play as part of our work. We jest, laugh, get down on the floor with the prototypes, and try to think like a kid as much as our boring adult-brains can manage.”
Team members’ positive outlooks make even challenging circumstances fun, Lillie said.
“The impossible becomes possible with that attitude,” she said.
Lillie and Wes Talbott discuss how their CCAD education impacts their work at LEGO Group here.