Dan Winger on building the future at LEGO

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One of my fondest childhood memories is playing with a big bucket of LEGOs on the floor with my 3 brothers. This was before the days of Star Wars- and Batman-branded LEGOs. It was just generic spacemen and knights in LEGO armor often mixed together in cross-era constructions.

Sometimes Star Wars did make an appearance though. I distinctly remember one unlucky figurine from The Empire Strikes Back. It lost its head in a brotherly battle but had a glued on LEGO replacement.

My colleague Aarron Walter also grew up as a LEGO fan, and now our kids play with them with the same intensity we remember. So it’s probably no surprise that we were both extremely excited to interview Dan Winger, a designer at LEGO Future Lab.

“We always want to inspire kids to be creative and tell their own stories…giving them the frames of reference and letting them go and create is the goal.”
– Dan Winger

Winger has a background in industrial design, as well as illustration (see the sketch below). You can find more of his work on his portfolio page.

A page from Winger’s personal sketchbook in 2010

Throughout our conversation with Winger, an important topic kept coming up—the parallel between physical and digital product design processes. Winger has great thoughts on the similarities and differences, but he also covered plenty of other topics.

Here are a few highlights to listen for:

  • Winger speaking about using a mixture of Design Thinking and Lean Startup processes.
  • Winger talking about some ways LEGO has been used as a prototyping tool, like prototyping architectural creations in Denmark, and visualizing entire cityscapes (with traffic patterns, heat maps, lighting conditions, etc.) at MIT.
  • Winger shares the most outlandish thing he’s seen built out of LEGO. Larry Page built an inkjet printer from LEGO bricks, and Google housed its first server in LEGO!

Grab your favorite set of stackable cubes and a pair of headphones to prepare for Winger’s insights, and stories about working at one of the most creative toy companies in the world.

If you like what we’re doing, and want to hear the stories of more great designers like Dan Winger, it would help us out a lot if you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave a review.

Thanks for listening!


Eli Woolery, Director of Design Education at InVision
Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he is a lecturer in the Product Design program at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Medium or on Twitter.

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