21327 LEGO Ideas Typewriter Announced. Q&A with the Ideas Design Team.

After a tease earlier in the week, the LEGO Group today announce the forthcoming release of the LEGO Ideas typewriter. Set 21327 has 2079 Pieces, and measures 27cmx26cmx12cm. It is based on the design by Steve Guinness, who has been involved in the process with the Ideas Design Team.

The set will cost $AUD329 USD199.99 €199.99 $CAD 269.99. It will be available from June 16 to via VIP early access from July 1 through LEGO branded retail channels.

A stalwart of many offices in Days Gone By, this model is based on machines of a certain vintage, and is sure to have appeal for a wide audience, but especially those to whom a vintage aesthetic appeals.

The final model is based on a photograph seen in the office of Ole Kirk Christiansen, founder of the company. The fourth generation owner of the company, Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, has written a letter to LEGO fans, which can be fitted on the roller. The letter has been translated in to all 43 languages typically supported by the LEGO Group’s documentation.

For the Young People

One may have become a little dependent on autocorrect as well as the ability to backspace and delete a character…

Here is a quick reminder, for those who might not have seen one before, as to what a real typewriter looks like. The roller, holding the paper, moves from right to left with each keystroke, and pushing the carriage return bar moves the roller to the right and rolls the paper up: to start a new line.

Presentation By The Design Team.

I was fortunate to attend a presentation from the Design Team at the recent Recognised LEGO Fan Media Days. The Model was presented by Design Lead, Samuel Johnson, Design Master Wesley Talbott and Designer James May.

Wes Talbot started, highlighting the primary difference between this model and the original submission: It is functioning: “All the keys make this central arm go and then it can reset (when the key is released) so that the plate moves forward every time you hit a key. We tried our best to put as much realistic functionality in this as possible with LEGO bricks, which is a awesome challenge to take up and really rewarding to get it finished.”

There are some new elements in this set – but no new moulds. – the bow (first seen in the Porsche, in Sand Green, as well as the 1×1 cross axle brick in Sand Green. There is also a textile element – coloured black and red, as the inking ribbon typically is in real mechanical typewriters.

James May continued “The most cool thing is a complete alphabet. If people want it for MOCs, they can have it” All of the keys are printed.

Wes described the model as being pretty Technic heavy:” Essentially a technic model inside a system brick shell. we really tried to reference how typewriters actually work. A lot of the mechanics are very similar, in that there’s a big Technic structure that goes through the back that all of the keys, and then lifts this [central] structure, which then triggers this [striking plate]. Obviously a lot more bulky and plastic than the miniscule steel stuff you’d find inside a real typewriter. It sounds pretty realistic: a happy coincidence that plastic smacking against plastic sounds like a typewriter.”

The model is not specifically based on any particular model – as such, it is not firmly attached to any third party IP. Samuel Johnson explained that the team referenced several models for design cues, evoking a certain 1930’s feel – including the colour, as well as the use of round key caps. Wes again: “[This] gave us the freedom to carve out space where we needed to, or change the ways, according to how the bricks fit.”

While the Alphabet is printed, there are two shiny chrome stickers on the model: One on the front says ‘System in Play’ while the one around the back gives a serial number, in an easter egg tribute to the Fan Designer – the Letters SG, quite possibly followed by his birthday, and them NGUOYD – an acronym for ‘Never give up on your dreams.’

Speaking of the fan designer, Steve Guinness was involved in the design process: “We showed him different options – there was gray, black and dark red. but we though [sand green] had a nice classic colour to it, being a bit poppy, but not too crazy”

Samuel Johnson expanded on the process: “While we are deliberating on which set to develop, the design team are working to see if they can even make it into a real LEGO Set. So now we have pretty high standards of quality and build and stability in this kind of thing. The team was working on some designs and just to see if we could make some mechanisms to bring Steve’s typewriter to life. Then we actually had some meetings. When we had something to talk about we had a call and showed him the updates, talked about the colors. We talked about the design of the font on the alphabet. He has seen pretty much every aspect.

“He actually came directly to visit: he brought his family to Billund on holiday, between the two lockdown. He was in the Lego house and we pulled him in, to see it for real. So that’s a very rare treat for us: to actually show someone that awesome work in person. So he joined a design team in for real. We’ve been quite casual just chatting backwards and forwards, and then having dialogues as a whole team.”

What about the appearance of studs on the model? is this as important for an ideas project as for other themes? Wes explained that they made a deliberate effort to include a few more studs than the design dictated. “these could easily have been tiles, but we realised that only these other ones would have been visible. We had tiles on here at one point: we took those off, so…that’s always an aesthetic choice. Different people have different tastes. So I think it’s always nice if you have the opportunity to take them off if you want to for your own display. In the official models, we do try to have that because it is an important part of the Lego brand identity.”

James explained futher that it might not have been appropriate to have too many studs visible in this model, as elements are facing in all sorts of directions.

When asked about the functionalilty of the mechanism, it became apparent that you can probably type realy quickly on the keybboard, without the mechanism jamming. However, the Shift key is not functional: it doesn’t move the mechanism up or down. However, the space key, shift keys and back space do not activate the striking mechanism.

I asked about the font used: Wes, again, “It was designed specifically for the model. We had a lot of different things like we looked into, like making sure that some of the letters were symmetrical like the ‘s.’ Oftentimes in fonts, the top is a little bit smaller than the bottom. We wanted to make sure that there wouldn’t be a wonky letter, if you had it rotated the wrong way. Also, for building MOCs and things that’s just a system alphabet, that is really user friendly.”

James May has been fortunate, to make the trip to Billund as an intern in 2015-16. This helped him to establish that LEGO was what he wanted to work with: He went back to university, completing a design degree, and is now back at the company. He explained there were some size restrictions that applied to the model: that’s why it only takes A5 rather than A4 paper. This is also part of why there is no print head for every key, rather just the single element that strikes up. Modelled of an old portable typewriter, this keyboard only has 3 rows, and features no numberics or special symbols. “So, in terms of portable typewriters, they tend to have less rows and the idea would be that you press the shift key to get a number. We had a big debate, and we included Steve Guinness, on whether we have just a full letter on a key or if it would be a smaller one. Then you can see the shift, with a number above it. And in the end we decided that if you just have like a clean letter tile. That would be better for use in other models and like MOCs at home and things. It’ll be more useful to fan builders.”

On the topic of the drum lacquered elements, the team commented that all printing and treating of elements makes the final cost of parts more expensive, but also, with the elements increasingly available in other sets, it opens up their availability for use in new designs.

Here is the official press release:

The LEGO Group has revealed the new LEGO® Ideas Typewriter set which is set to delight the most seasoned wordsmiths and fans of all things vintage. Designed by LEGO fan, Steve Guinness from Chester, UK, as part of the LEGO® Ideas platform, the LEGO Ideas Typewriter is based on a contemporary typewriter model of a bygone era, including the one used by LEGO Group founder Ole Kirk Christiansen.

Intricately designed to mirror the function and tactility of a classic typewriter, the LEGO Ideas Typewriter features a center typebar that rises each time a letter key is pressed, linked to the carriage which moves across as you type, as well as a platen roller that real paper can be fed into.

In a fitting nod to the lost art of letter writing, the premium quality LEGO Typewriter set also comes with a letter written and signed by Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, chairman of the LEGO Group and a fourth-generation member of the family which still privately owns the business to this day.

The original concept for the typewriter came through LEGO fan Steve Guinness’ submission to the LEGO Ideas platform, a LEGO initiative that takes new ideas that have been imagined and voted for by fans and turns them into reality.   Discussing his idea, Steve said: “I wanted to create something totally different from anything that LEGO has ever done before and showcase that you really can make anything out of LEGO. I bought a vintage typewriter for my research and then played around with bricks and the mechanism until I was happy with the design.  I hope it will bring nostalgia to adult fans like me, and wonder and curiosity to younger fans who might not have ever seen a real typewriter!”

While the concept of the typewriter dates back to the early 18th Century, Steve’s design, and the LEGO design team’s development of it, captures the styling cues of the modern 20th century typewriters, which still have a cult following today.

Federico Begher, VP of Global Marketing at LEGO Group commented: “It’s not hard to see why the vintage typewriter has such enduring appeal, and Steve’s incredible replica is a thoroughly worthy LEGO Ideas success story.

“For many, the escape from the connected world to the simplicity of the typewriter is a similar experience to the mindful process of building with LEGO bricks. Here, we have a LEGO set that combines these two worlds seamlessly and like its real-life counterparts, is something LEGO fans will be proud to display in their homes.”

The LEGO Typewriter is available to buy from 16th June 2021 via LEGO VIP early access and will be on sale on LEGO.com/ideas from 1st July.

I really like the look of the final model. As you can see from my old Olivetti, this model certainly hold a bit of appeal for me. As a person of a certain age, typewriters were instrumental in my early years of writing, and I find this set is giving me a fantastic burst of nostalgia. I look forward to picking it up sometime after its release.

Thanks to the AFOL engagement teal for facilitating the discussion with the design team at the fan media days. It was great to get a deeper insight into how the set came together.

What do you think of this set. Does it hold appeal? or is it just a collection of bricks and gears to you? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,

Play Well!

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