This article was originally published in The Robotics Practitioner: The Journal for Robot Builders,
volume 1, number 2, Spring 1995; email@example.com
The Art of LEGO Design
Fred G. Martin1
March 15, 1995
There is a real need for better resources for both fledgling and intermediate LEGO builders. The plans that the LEGO
company distributes with its kits are very good at showing how to build specific models, but not so good at teaching how to
design from one’s own ideas. At the MIT Media Laboratory, we’re working on a project we call the LEGO Constructopedia,
a hypermedia resource for LEGO designers that will include LEGO building plans, design principles, textual descriptions,
and rendered animations, all interlinked, indexed, and browsable. The project is just beginning and is still in the conceptual
stages; this article is my attempt to present some of the content of our proposed LEGO Constructopedia in a more traditional
The article begins with an analysis of the structural principles of the LEGO system, continues with a discussion of gears,
gear reduction, and geartrains, and finishes with a visual assortment of various building tricks or “clichés.” Interspersed
throughout are numerous diagrams and sample models to illustrate the ideas being presented. I hope that LEGO aficionados
at all levels from novice to expert will find something of interest here.
The Vertical Dimension Relation
Let’s begin by examining the LEGO brick in detail. Most people realize that the LEGO brick is not based on a cubic form.
The height of the brick is a larger measure than the length and width (assuming the normal viewpoint of studs on the top).
But few people know the secret relationship between these dimensions: the vertical unit is precisely 6/5 times the horizontal
ones. Put another way, a stack of five LEGO bricks is exactly equal in height as a six-stud LEGO beam is long.
The origins of this obscure relationship remain shrouded in mystery, but it has real practical value: by building structures