Lego fan turns lego designer

Mr Marcos Bessa keeps most of his creations out of sight at home.
Mr Marcos Bessa keeps most of his creations out of sight at home. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Lego designer's childhood love of the toy helped him land his dream job

Mr Marcos Bessa was a devoted Lego fan for most of his childhood, until he put away the colourful bricks at age 12 after people told him that they were not age-appropriate toys for boys his age.

"I should have never listened to them," he says with a laugh.

Luckily for him, he picked up the bricks again at 18. In rekindling his love of Lego, he also inadvertently found his future career .

Now 28, he is a senior Lego designer, which he calls the "best and most fun job ever". It is also his first job after graduating from the University of Porto in Portugal with a degree in computer engineering.

Mr Bessa, a Portuguese, is the designer of popular sets such as Batman: Arkham Asylum Breakout and The Disney Castle.

  • BOOK IT /MEET AND GREET AUTOGRAPH SESSION WITH LEGO SENIOR DESIGNER MARCOS BESSA

  • WHERE: The Atrium, Level 1 Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Road

    WHEN: Today, 11.30am

    ADMISSION: Free

He is in town today for the launch of his latest creation, Lego Brickheadz, a series of 12 collectible Lego-style characters from Marvel, DC Comics and Disney franchises, such as Captain America, Batman and Belle.

There are 350 full sets available for sale today at Bricks World in Ngee Ann City, each priced at $238.80.

First announced at the popular comic convention San Diego Comic Con last year, the Brickheadz series was launched in the United States last month. The 150 sets available for pre-order here last week were snapped up within 30 minutes of sales.

Mr Bessa is quick to defend the notion that the pre-designed Brickheadz sets take away the magic of creation and imagination, which made him fall in love with the product from a young age.

"I honestly don't believe that any part is too special or specific; it could be anything you want it to be," says Mr Bessa, a bachelor, adding that the individual pieces used for his creations are essentially basic Lego bricks.

"It's just a matter of looking at the parts from a different angle or thinking out of the box."

He says his job is not just about playing around with Lego blocks.

"Designing Legos is a lot about problem-solving," says Mr Bessa, adding that the process is like having to "solve a puzzle without having the full picture".

When he returned to playing with Lego after some years, he was soon caught up in the activities of an online forum in Portugal dedicated to Lego, joining fan competitions and attending weekly meet-ups.

He found out through the community that the Lego headquarters in Denmark was looking to hire a junior set designer and he jumped at the chance to fulfil his childhood dream of becoming a Lego maker.

He ended up trumping 40 other hopefuls who were in the selection workshop, where they were asked to complete a series of tasks such as drawing and creating a new product and storyline from a box of Lego bricks. He eventually clinched the job as a junior set designer.

Six and a half years into the job, he already has fans of his designs. He will be holding a meet-and- greet session today at the launch of Brickheadz at Wisma Atria.

Fans such as Mr Wong Jun Heng, 37, a freelance copywriter, are looking forward to meeting the toy designer.

He has even created a Lego figurine of Mr Bessa, to be given to the designer. "I really admire the attention to detail in his designs," says Mr Wong, who has more than 20 of Mr Bessa's creations at home.

Mr Bessa, however, prefers not to look at his own creations while at home - he keeps most of his Lego sets out of sight, including under his bed.

"It's really to maintain a healthy balance in my life," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Career built on bricks'. Print Edition | Subscribe