DONG – Building instructions

How is a building instruction made?

The process of creating a building instruction is done in several steps and contains some different challanges.

I often get a quick respond that that has to be easy for a software to make automaticly – but when you look at the details it is not that easy.

  • Not to many different bricks at the same time
  • Some steps are more critical than other, so not just the same amount of bricks per step. This can be noted in the offcial LEGO building instructions. It might look strange in some steps to only place one brick, but often there is a reason to prepare the builder in the coming steps, to speed up or down the builder.
  • To get the right brick in the right order, some step is not that critical as others.
  • Bricks can not be “built in the air”, so the building instruction steps need to prepare some building steps before putting them into the model, especially SNOT building technique.

Following are some examples of the steps to make an instruction.

STEP 1 – Making a Digital Model in Lego Digital Designer (LDD)

Using the LDD in expert mode makes it easy to locate most of the buidling bricks, but if the model is to be built in real life, the bricks must also be availabe in the color you need – that is not allways obvious.


STEP 2 – Breaking down the model into building steps

First screendump and last step of the front window instruction.
The bricks to the left of the model is the bricks needed for this step. piece by piece.
NOTE that the 1×1 stup on the side brick is not correct, that brick is not in LDD yet.

Some of the steps – screendumps from LDD that is later used in photoshop

The LDD screendump (transparent PNG) and manually (with some magic) fixed the “missing” bricks in photoshop
…the SNOTed panel…
…two bricks on the top…
…three bricks but only two types of bricks to be placed on the top…
…some windows…
…and so on…
last screendump and first step of building.

STEP 3 – Creating the pages

Using Adobe Photoshop Elements and working in layers, the pages are built up step by step and page by page.

STEP 4 – Merging pages into a final document

As pages are created in Photoshop the disc is filled with individual pages that need to be merged into a document. This is done using Adobe Acrobat.


The above work and blog article is made by me, Anders Horvath. A LEGO fan since birth and an active Swebrick AFOL since 2012. Back in 1987 after engineering collegue I started at a company working as a technical illustrator making spare parts lists/3D illustrations (in 1987 3D illustrations was made by hand, not computers).

Today I am a marketing communication manager for a big corporation so the LDD and 3D modelleling is a fun work on the side in combination with the LEGO building hobby, bringing some “good old days” back into my life.

DONG – First prototypes

Many of the BIG models showcased on this blog will be on display as part of a major BIG exhibition, Formgivning (from June 12th to October 20th 2019) in Danish Architecture Centre recently relocated to the new BLOX building on the Copenhagen harbour front.

BIG would like to add some interaction to the LEGO displays by having the guests collaborate on constructing BIG architecture from LEGO themselves! How could this be done? After some brainstorming, the idea of using the DONG – Dortheavej Residence for the purpose came up as it consists of 70 almost identical prefabricated containers. The guests could simply build one container each (or in teams) and stack them to create the final model.

The pictures below show the DONG building. The description is taken from the BIG project website

The characteristic checkered pattern of Dortheavej is based on a singular prefab structure. Conceived as a porous wall, the building gently curves in the center, creating space for a public plaza towards the street.

The housing modules repeat along the curve and are stacked to the height of the surrounding buildings. The stacking creates additional space for each appartment to have a small terrace.

Long wooden planks cover the facade on all sides, highlighting the modules and alternating to accentuate the checkered pattern.

To test the feasibility of the idea, a prototype of a prefab module was built. Based on the architectural drawings, it turned out that modules could be represented very accurately in minifig scale by a 16×32 standard baseplate footprint and 10 bricks in height.

A very important design aspect to capture in the LEGO version is the alternating wooden planks in the facade. The “back” of the Masonry brick in Dark Tan combined with a single line of plates and tiles at the top and bottom gives a nice effect and makes it easy to make a snot construction (as 5 plates = 2 bricks). For the facades with smaller windows, the height of each panel could simply be doubled as seen on the picture below.

Having built the first prototype and being satisfied with the look of the facade, the next step was to consider constructability. How do we make a container that is both sturdy and easy to built for the exhibition guests with simple instructions? The solution was to split the construction in three: The easy, open container module and the two distinct facade types that can be clicked on to the container. In that way, it would be possible to split the construction of the container between more people with different LEGO skills.

The first prototype of this concept was built in grey to optimize the construction and part usage before eventually ordering large quantities of the bricks in dark tan. At this stage, we also had to consider the very limited part selection in dark tan.

The concpet seemed to work, the facades would clip on easily. Next step was to order the necessary bricks and start building more containers to see if the idea of simply stacking them in a curve was feasible. More on that in a later blog post!