Brick by brick

Many children would agree that Lauren Andres ’14 has the best job: LEGO model builder.

At company headquarters in Enfield, Conn., Andres teams up with fellow builders, as well as designers and master builders, to create LEGO models that fuel the imagination of young minds.

“My favorite part about LEGO Systems has been the people and overall culture,” said Andres, who majored in studio art at Wheaton. “Being employed at a toy company, I’ve found there is a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. Everyone here is incredibly hard-working, but there is certainly no shortage of fun.”

In her role, Andres assists LEGO designers, helping to turn their digital design into the actual physical model. Designers begin creating their model in Maya, a 3D computer software, and then export the file into the company’s Brick Builder program. In Brick Builder, designers are able to translate their 3D model into a LEGO model.

As model builder, Andres looks at files created in Brick Builder as virtual building instructions to build the model physically.

“We work layer by layer, gluing each individual brick together to create a stable model that can travel across the country, or even across the world, to its final destination,” Andres said, adding that all models are built with regular bricks available to anyone—not specialty pieces or colors. She has worked on models of all sizes, from those that can fit in the palm of her hand to larger-scale models taller than her.

Her job requires acute attention to detail, a skill she developed as a Wheaton student.

“In art and design, you are often faced with a problem and there are a thousand different ways to solve it, but it is your job to figure out the best solution,” Andres said. “The same holds true for model building; there are so many different ways to build a model, but it is the model builder’s job to determine the best approach.”

Andrew Howard, co-chair of the Studio Art and Art History Department, recalls Andres as a motivated student with “amazing focus.”

“She was always able to define her conceptual ideas, and execute them. She is a meticulous worker who is hard on herself when things aren’t working out with her art,” Howard said. “She also has a very quirky sense of humor and I think that her position at LEGO Systems is the absolute perfect job for her.”

Before her position at LEGO Systems, Andres was part of a small startup company with only two employees. Now, she enjoys working at one of the most well loved toy companies in the world.

“It is awesome to be reminded of the amount of visibility my job and company have; for example, photos of life-size models I’ve worked on regularly appear on popular media sites like Entertainment Weekly,” she said.

Andres said her liberal arts education at Wheaton helped her land such a unique, fulfilling job.

“My role as a model builder asks me to be versatile and flexible in a lot of different capacities,” she said. “This diversification of my studies has ensured that I am not limited to one specific career path, and has helped lead to great opportunities in a short amount of time.”