When asked to create custom LEGO sets as Google Bug Hunters gift sets, we knew we had to put everything we had into it. It is always very well worth the time and effort when we have the opportunity to work with globally recognized brands like Google. We have had the pleasure of working with them before, but this request was much more involved than anything we had created for them to date.
In January 2021, Playwell Bricks was approached on Google’s behalf by creative agency Stink Studios with an ambitious project: to create ten unique LEGO sets and produce ten copies of each one for a total of 100 boxed gifts ready to present to their lucky recipients.
These gifts were destined for contributors to Google’s ‘bug hunter’ program, which rewards freelance ‘bounty hackers’ for uncovering bugs in Google software. Jason worked closely with the Stink Studios creative team over a period of four months to develop the ten sets, each of which was commissioned to represent a specific aspect of a bug hunter’s work.
We put all our resources into the Google Bug Hunters gift sets: collaborating with MillionPrints for custom printed elements, designing and printing instructions for each set, sorting and packaging 30,000 pieces, handling shipment to the European Google office set to distribute them, and even solving a few bumps in the road along the way – suffice it to say we have a newfound appreciation for customs regulations. But the challenges were worth it to deliver this impressive lineup:
- The Mech
And the ‘most challenging design in the series’ award goes to… the mech. This set went through four iterations on its way to achieving the perfect vision, inspired by the sleek design language of Apple products. Although the mech had to appear battle-ready, it also needed to have a non-violent look, so Jason designed a keyboard ‘shield’ and a mouse ‘recon unit’ to give this machine its bug-hunting chops without depicting weapons. The biggest hurdle to overcome was a cockpit that could seat a minifigure, which limited the space available for structural elements. It was tricky to pull off, but ‘designing the impossible’ is the name of the game, and it turned out amazingly.
- The 404 Robot
Anyone who has ever landed on a Google 404 error page will be familiar with this little bot. It’s fallen to pieces in the original illustration, so naturally, our model had to be ready to display in the same state – but the client also asked that it be possible to reassemble into an intact robot (after all, bugs are meant to be fixed!), so we developed a bot that gives its builder the option of displaying it pre- or post-repairs.
- The Bug Droid
We think this one speaks for itself. Where goes Google, so goes Android – but this take on the iconic droid mascot is just a little bit more bug-like than usual. Opening up the bug droid’s head reveals a hidden inside compartment, sporting the Google colours and providing the bug hunter with a handy place to store their trusty USB stick.
- The Google Cloud
If the bug droid spoke for itself, then the cloud takes that to a whole new level. What more can we say? This design uses transparent elements to give the impression that the clouds are floating, and uses the Google colours to create a striking 3D effect. In creating this set, Jason chose to avoid using curved elements, sticking to an aesthetic with lots of straight, ‘pixelated’ edges and visible studs to reinforce the ‘LEGO-y’ and ‘digital’ feel of the design.
- The Zen Garden
One must be in one’s happy place to be the most efficient bug hunter… of course, it helps when the bugs have wandered right into that happy place! There’s trouble in paradise in this buggy zen garden – all the more reason to remove some bugs to restore peace and tranquility to the sandy scene.
- The Google Doodle
There have been countless Google Doodles over the years, and we think it probably took Stink Studios a good while to choose just one for us to replicate. They settled on Grace Hopper, a computer programming legend who invented one of the first linkers and pioneered the concept of machine-independent programming languages. Hopper held 40 honorary degrees, and has had numerous things named in her honour, including a U.S. Navy destroyer, an NERSC supercomputer, and an nVidia graphics processing architecture. We are so proud to have had the opportunity to memorialize her in our own way with this set, which comes complete with a Grace Hopper minifigure.
- The Hacker Station
A good bug hunter needs the right equipment, and this tech savvy minifigure is ready to examine code on not one, not two, but four displays mounted around her workstation. It’s also said that a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind, so we know from the detailed, brick-built clutter – including a coffee mug bearing a familiar four-colour logo – that this hacktivist’s mind is as brilliant as they come.
- The Gnu
If you’re a Windows or Mac user, you may not have heard of the GNU Project or the GNU General Public License. But the bug hunters most certainly have, because it’s the foundation of the Linux operating system – and Linux, in turn, is the foundation of Google’s own Android OS. The gnu is the obvious choice for the GNU Project’s mascot, and it makes a fantastic geek-friendly LEGO model perfect for the enterprising developer.
- The Puzzle Box
Here’s the runner-up for the ‘most challenging design’ award we earlier presented to the mech. This took every bit as much research to design, as Jason spent two weeks watching puzzle videos to figure out the concept – and then a further 3 days of design work to engineer the complex puzzle box. It represents the challenge of figuring out complex systems, and gave Jason’s daughter the chance to become somewhat of a ‘bug hunter’ herself as she got to pick the model apart through each stage of development, finding the weaknesses so that it could become truly… well… puzzling!
- The Bugs
Last but not least, we have the purest representation of ‘bugs’ in the whole series. The ask was for mechanical-looking bugs, and Jason did not disappoint, using parts creatively to convey the sense of machine articulation even at a relatively small scale. The first iteration of these bugs was black and gold, but they were updated to white and grey for a finished product that’s perfectly in line with Google’s brand aesthetic.
A lot of hard work and research went into delivering the perfect set designs for Stink Studios to bring to Google, and we were thrilled to hear that the client was delighted with Playwell Bricks’ work. This project was definitely not without hardships and lessons learned, but the results speak for themselves and every hurdle we clear makes us all the more prepared for the many commissions yet to come. Interested in our work?
The team at Google was incredibly pleased with the final result of the Bug Hunters gift sets.
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