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Branding Essentials for Designers

Lesson 3 of 14

Brand Visuals: Lego


Branding Essentials for Designers

Lesson 3 of 14

Brand Visuals: Lego


Lesson Info

Brand Visuals: Lego

I was there for 12 years, 11, 12 years. It was an incredible experience, loved every second of it. But, I had this opportunity. Remember that guy Nike Entertainment, guy Andrew Black, well he went to LEGO as president of LEGO Americas. He kept saying you should check these guys out. They don't have anyone who does what you do. Global creative director-type thing. And he goes, "They've got a logo, but that's all they-- "and they got cool stuff, but they don't know how to "put it all together." No, no, I'm happy. And he says, "You should just check it out." So I went over to Denmark and I met with the owner, the grandson of the founder. And I was like, "Wow, cool company." And they said, "Yeah, we kind of like you. "Do you want to write a job description, what you wanna do?" (laughter) "Okay, that sounds cool." So, I did and ended up working for LEGO and living over in Denmark, where their headquarters are. So LEGO has a product. LEGO's pretty unique brand, isn't it? The product is the b...

rand. It's unique because when you think of Apple, for instance, they have lots of devices and computers and phones and all those things but and Microsoft has devices and services and software and all those things. But LEGO, the brand is the brick. That's our brand. It's just like you can get a little two by four red brick and hand it someone and say, "That's my brand." And, you know what? It embodies everything there is about the brand and this is what's really cool about it. So if you look at the history of LEGO, they started off with this automatic binding brick and the founder, he used to make wooden toys and then he started making these, plastics were coming into vogue at the time, and so he explored plastics to make toys. And then you've all seen what's happened since then, with LEGOLANDs and amazing things that you can do with these toys, these bricks. So, at the time, when I started there, you can see here on this slide, that they had lots of stuff. But the only thing that was consistent, so this is very common for lots of brands, only thing that's consistent is the logo. So everyone has a logo and they put it on everything and they go, "Okay, we're good." It's all consistent. But that's just the starting point, that's not a brand. A logo's not a brand. And so, with this kind of brand opportunity that was there, did what brands always need to do is create a brand book. So a brand book is, and we'll go through several examples today, a brand book is this is who we are, a style guide is this is what we look like, sound like, taste like, all of those things. So, created a brand language for LEGO. So, of course, starts with the logo on top. But then goes through all of the elements of graphic elements, photography, illustration, how you present yourself. And so, now, created a brand language that puts everything into a framework and everything starts fitting together. So, the brand book, as well, of course, needs to reflect what that brand looks like. So, (coughs) if you look at, let me go to, if you look at this, here's an example, these are the brochures. And so you think of that brick, so there's a little brick, a little two by four brick. So everything about the brand came from that brick because the brick equals, if you put, I forgot the, it's been a while now, so I forgot if you put three bricks together you can build 1,100 things or something. Six bricks you can build a million or something things, you know different combinations. So, it really is about whatever your imagination can create. So, so what we had as our brand promise was endless play. It was all about endless play. Unlimited imaginations, so you can play with that forever and never build the same thing twice. And so if you think of that brick we got our brand language, our visual brand language, and inspiration, our brand promise and everything, from that brick. So about the playing, unlimited play, about your imagination and all that. And then, visually, we had the, it has the little studs on it. So, we took the radius of a circle and we applied that. So if you look at this, rounded corners. Everything had rounded corners. If you look at the rounded corners in there, you could put the stud of a brick right there and it would fit right there, a bigger or smaller version of that. So we actually took our inspiration for the visual language as well, from the brick. So you start looking at it, so again, it comes back to that not identical, but an identity. You look at this, it's done in a more subtle way here, see look at the top of the magazine. See how you have that little rule, that white rule up there? That follows that same shape. The outline that's around it does that as well. And the website, you can see how that works as well with that. And then, the packaging. So this is done, ooh, this is done quite a while ago. It's probably 2003, something like that, 2003. But if you go to the shelf today, you'll still see this language there. And it's endured that long, which is pretty amazing for a brand. So you look at the packaging and the packaging has that same language. So, you look at that curve right there, see that curve, that's the stud of the brick. And we used a lot of the elements of this, so if you're creating a product, you have to communicate as well. It can't just be all emotion, it has to be what this thing is, what it does for you. So, there has to be a lot of rigor around developing a brand, as well. And the rigor that we created here was the framework. And we'll show, especially this afternoon, we'll show some practical examples. We'll have some live examples of how we created that rigor. So like on packaging, you have a framework, the packaging framework. This is where the information goes. This is where your net weight and all your legal things go. This is where your brand, your logo would go. This is where your emotional copy would go. This is where your pictures go. So we had this was the framework, very rigorous, image goes there of what the thing could look like, what the thing looks like. And then we had all the information here. Sometimes we had to translate up to seven languages on there, so we had to have enough room to put all the information there. The age group it's for, and all that. And then, this was the shelf when we started, before we started this system. This is what the shelf looked like, kind of a little bit of a mess. To a lot of rigor now, and so what great branding does, it not only creates that emotional connection, but it allows you to find stuff. You're walking down the aisle or you're online looking through a million different sites, you can find stuff, you can shop easily, because it tells you quickly, "This is who I am, "this is who I'm for. "This is what I'm gonna look like, taste like, feel like," whatever that thing is. So it has to be very clear. It has to work on an emotional level, but also on a very practical level. It has to speak to the head and the heart. So this is what the retail looked like after we did the rebrand. And then you can see how it applies to, in the 3D space. So this is for the Nuremberg Toy Fair. And you can see, even, these big structures that we created here, they follow that same radius, they have that same language. So, doesn't matter if it's anything from graphic elements, photography, 3D spaces, whatever it is, it all has to fit within that language. It has to be a flexible language that can work. This is similar to a Nike town, when we were, this is really fun, if you've been to the mall in your city, you might've gone to a LEGO store. And the LEGO stores are in the malls or on high streets internationally in Europe and in Asia. And this was, when I was there, it was like, "We're gonna create our own retail, "because you know what? "We can't control it when it's in a Walmart or a Toys R Us "or the toy stores." But we thought, "Okay, well, what's the difference between, "what can we create that you can't already experience "in a toy store or when you go to LEGOLAND?" You go to LEGOLAND and there's all that, LEGO-mania going on there. And then you go to a toy store and you have packaging. So, you can grab the packaging, you can shake it, but you can't do anything with it, right? You have to just take it home in order to play with it. So, what we did is we thought, "Okay, there's somewhere in between those two "and this is a space that we can mine for our stores." That we were gonna create. And so, we went back to the brick. The trusted brick which has everything in it. And we started designing. And, so, Match Munk, remember him and Neil Webster and we worked on this. And so we had our store principles. The store principles were that in the living room, we called it, in the center of the store, which was yellow. It had a yellow floor. You can play with the product. So that's something that you can't do at a toy store, right? But it is similar to what you can do at a LEGOLAND. So we brought a little bit of LEGOLAND in there, where you can play with the product. And then the perimeter of the store, was for shopping. Perimeter of the store was for shopping. And so, we want to sell stuff, we've gotta make money and so that was the commerce area. Inside the, with the living room on the inside. And then, we looked at the brick and we wanted everything to reflect that brick. In fact, we thought, "What if we put a brick in the front of the store? "Like a big one, "a big red brick when you walk in the store." And then, everything in the store comes from that brick. So, next time you go into a LEGO store, you'll see that, you'll see that red brick there. And then you'll look at everything, from the light fixtures, to the back wall, everything is a scaled up or scaled down version of what that brick is. Even those little yellow cubes that you see, those are modular. You can flip them over, you can stack them together. They're like big LEGO bricks. So the perimeter where you sell stuff, we wanted to break that up a little bit. So, we didn't want to be so crassly commercial that it's just all stuff to buy. So, what we're able to do, and this is not easy, we wanted to put up, we called it a brand ribbon. And the brand ribbon, you can see it here in this photo. You can see that white with those little portals? So inside each of those portals, if you go into a LEGO store you'll see all these little experiences. It'll be a little minifigures doing something, or a little historical thing. But they're things that you can't buy, but they're things that you can be entertained by or learned from or create that brand connection with. It's like, "Oh yeah, LEGO, I used to play with those. "Oh yeah, I had that one." And what it was, we built this brand ribbon at the height of a seven year old, five, six, seven year old so it's at this height, and if you're an adult, you have to bend over to look down. And so you have to become like a child. And this is the way LEGO, and so remember the whole thing about joining a religion? So LEGO is the same thing, join the religion, the LEGO religion. And the way that we talked, was like that, you have to bend down like a child. You have to, we have to bend down like this, and it touched the child within. We actually said that. (laughter) With no irony, too, I think. (laughter) That's what happens when you join a brand. It was great. So we created the brand ribbon. And they actually bought off on it, and they go, "That is important." Taking prime selling retail space and devoting it to the brand. So that's the importance of the brand. Those are great brands that understand branding. So that's what the store looks like. And there's the brand ribbon, as you can see. And then, again, back to the remember the Nike days, of those sneaker freaks cutting up their sneakers? Nike ID, creating a Nike ID from that? Well, same thing at LEGO. At LEGO, would see these guys, they're usually in their 20s, 30s, guys mostly, some girls, but they just kind of never outgrew LEGO. (laughs) They still building and they're building computers and harpsichords and this one guy built a fully functioning air conditioning unit with valves, compressor and working fan. (laughter) I had never thought of that, (laughter) I don't know why. (laughter) And then, Nathan Sawaya, he's actually a master builder, he builds a lot of stuff. But he built a Han Solo in Carbonite. So, we were inspired by those guys. So what do they have to do before? If you wanted to build your carrier air conditionering unit, do you imagine, in 10,000 pieces or so, you imagine how many bricks that you would have to go buy, so you couldn't buy them in bulk at the time. You had to go buy sets. And, or go online, or online didn't exist back then, I don't think. But you had to buy a bunch of sets and just take out all the little gray bricks, so you'd have enough gray bricks. That took forever. And so, one of the things that we did, is inspired by them, and inspired by their passion for the brand, huge brand evangelists, the kinds of things that they build. And we created this, we called it the pick-a-brick wall, where you can buy in bulk. Now you can buy in bulk. You go and you pick your cup size and you scoop it up and dump it into a bag and you're charged by the size. And you can just keep scooping gray bricks in there, as much as you want. So it solved a problem, but it was also really a resting feature, so when you walk into the store, you see that on the back wall, that wall and it's like, kind of like a shrine to LEGOs. A shrine to the bricks. So a lot of fun. And then, even little things like look at the attention to detail on any great brand. So the front windows for the LEGO stores, they have these cylinder tubes and we put those there to highlight little things. Here we have them filled with bricks but sometimes we put little minifigures in them and things that are showcased. But you know those are the same radius as the studs that are on a brick, so it made it easy. Consistency. And then, along the Nike ID line, every time I ran into a kid and told them I worked at LEGO, they go, (gasps) "I want to work at LEGO, "I want to build dinosaurs at LEGOLAND." Okay, well, the first thing you have to do, if you go to interview at LEGO to be a master builder, you have to build a ball out of LEGOs. So try doing that, that's a challenge. If you make it that first step then you get an interview, maybe. But what we did is we looked at that experience of being part of brand creation. Same way at Nike ID, you're able to design and say that I designed this shoe. You're a co-creator with the brand. So same thing at LEGO. We, inherently, when you buy a box and you create something, you created that but now, you can go online and you can have a blank, digital, virtual space in which you can design your own creation. I just grabbed, roughly, I just grabbed a few things, put them together and then it says, "Do you want to buy this?" Yes, I just created this. And it says, "Do you want to customize the packaging?" Yes. And also, "Do you want to display it for others?" For others to buy, even. So what you can do now, is you can truly be a creator. And you can tell your friends, "Hey, I made this. "Go on this site and you can buy it." So, imagine the shift of a brand where you are so passionate about that brand that you are now a designer, or a creator within that brand. So you don't have to be hired by the brand, and for the brands, how great is that, that they are now your brand ambassador as well? 'Cause they're creating stuff and they're telling people about that and that's better than any advertising. Always that word of mouth and those different touchpoints are so important. So, Nike and LEGO they both share that, they have that brand infinity. They have those brand fans. And it didn't happen overnight. All those brands, all great brands, went through a struggle and they had to build that. Nike went through some really tough times. LEGO went through some really tough times to get to there. But you learn along the way. And the thing that really unites all those brands is that brand sensibility. Everything that we do matters. So it comes back to that beginning of a brand is a person. Being able to describe that brand and the way that they look and the way they act and the way they talk and everything. So, when I first joined LEGO, as I said, when I, that language, touch your child within and all that, so when I first joined the company, I wasn't yet into it. I was intrigued by the brand, but it's like I wanted to learn. So when they started talking that way, it's like, "Oh, this is kind of weird." But then, once you get into it, become a brand fan, which I became a brand fan, 'cause I was an older gentleman, I wasn't a kid, so once I started understanding the brand, then that was just a part of our natural language. And the same thing with a brand fan, they become part of you and they become part of your brand in the same way that the shoes or the computers or the phones or whatever it is, they're as an important part of that. And if you treat them like that, then they will reciprocate and they will stay with you. And they'll also help you, they'll help guide you. LEGO went through a tough time a few years ago and they had to reconsider, "What are we doing?" So what they did is they went back to the beginning and they go, "Why did we start this company? "Why do we exist?" They got a little carried away with chasing things. And that happens to every brand, I don't know why, they just don't learn. (laughs) It happens to every brand. What happens is they just kind of go out of control, they're doing well, and it's just, "Yeah, we can do this. "And how 'bout that? "Oh, let's do that, too." You can put a logo on anything and sell it. But why, back to that bullseye, why does it belong in the brand? How does it map back to what your core strength is, why you started this in the first place. Your brand story. That's why that brand story is so important. And those are the things that you always refer back to consistently. So, Al-zoo-la wanted to know, did you get free LEGOs, endlessly, while you were there at LEGO? (laughter) Well, Al-zoo-la? Hi, Al-zoo-la, how you doing? (laughter) So, what was cool was that it's just what you imagine, a lot of guys working there, some girls, but a lot of guys. And they're sitting at these desks and behind them, there's walls of filing cabinets, drawers, and all those drawers have a different kind of brick in them. So what they do is they pull out 10 drawers, put them on their desk then they just start building. And they build that spaceship. So it's like a dream place for anyone who's really into LEGO, 'cause it's just, that's what they're doing. It's just freeform building and then, oh I have to tell this real quick, 'cause it's really interesting, so they build it, and then they hand it off to the next department. You know what the next department does? They have to take it apart and figure out how they built it so they can do the instructions. And that's the brilliance of LEGO is there's no words, it's applicable in all languages. So you look at the instructions, it's all color-coded in size. So that's what that next department do, they go, "Oh, wow, I got to take this apart "and they have to build the instructions from it." And so, pretty interesting. Yeah, so, I had tons of LEGOs and I, you know, this is so funny, when I say LEGOs it just grates on me like fingers on a chalkboard, 'cause you're supposed to say LEGO bricks. LEGO is the brand, you're not supposed to say LEGOs, that's a no-no of a brand. So, I slipped. So, I had so many LEGO bricks. LEGO, trademark, circle R, (laughter) bricks. And I still have tons of them. Back to the freeform thing of it, sometimes I'll have in my office just a bowl of them, people just, you can't not touch them, that's the beauty of it. So yes, a long answer. (laughs) So, Nathan Zitterberg would like to know, and if we're gonna cover this later, just let me know, what questions do you ask your clients to help yourself understand the 360 view of what their brand looks like? Yeah, we'll really go into depth later on in that for Nathan. Stay tuned. And there's another question on here about how you developed your own personal brand, but I think we're gonna talk about that later, as well. Really give advice to those folks out there, that want to sort of complete that personal vision. Yeah, we'll get a lot more into that, both how to interact with clients and all that. It's simple, guys you just got to shave your head right there and do that. (laughter) And then, girls, I'll come up with something. (laughter)

Class Description


  • Bring a unique human touch to a brand story
  • Define brand attributes, vision, and strategies for naming
  • Employ tactics to ensure brand consistency across all platforms


A great brand is the culmination of strategic thought, experience, and a little magic. It all results in a story that creates brand fans. A logo, a name and identity are starting points, but by themselves don’t create successful brands. Learn what it takes to build a lasting and meaningful brand in Branding Essentials for Designers with Stanley Hainsworth.

Stanley is the the former creative director at Nike, Lego and Starbucks and now founder of the multi-disciplinary creative juggernaut – Tether. In this class he teaches the role stories play in developing a strong brand identity and how to create a strategic roadmap for sharing a brand story with the world. You’ll learn tools and methodologies for creating brands that can be applied to projects of all sizes.

Through this class you’ll develop the skills you need to offer clients the complete package when it comes to branding – not just a logo. Deepen your branding know-how and infuse meaning into your design work with branding whiz, Stanley Hainsworth.


This class is for design professionals, entrepreneurs, startup founders, marketing and branding managers, and creatives interested in learning more about branding.


Underneath that highly unorthodox shock of follicular iconoclasm lies the turbocharged brain of a highly attuned branding machine. Stanley mastered the art of brand storycraft while serving as the creative-in-chief at three of the great brands of our time: Nike, Lego, and Starbucks, where he was VP of Global Creative during an era when the now-ubiquitous brand matured into the cultural icon we know today. His creative influence extended from products and campaigns to all consumer touch points. Prior to that, as Global Creative Director for the Lego Company in Denmark, Stanley directed a total visual overhaul of the brand, including advertising, interactive, packaging, retail and brand stores. At Nike, Stanley worked on everything from the Olympics to creating Nike Entertainment. He has written books on branding, is an educator, a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and is a sought after speaker on branding and design worldwide. 

Connect with Stanly online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Huffington Post


  1. Personal Journey

    By telling his story, Stanley models personal branding in action - how did a small town western Kentucky boy come to realize that he, himself, was a brand? Stanley addresses the fundamentals here: what exactly is branding? How are brands like people? What are the key questions to ask when developing a brand?

  2. Defining the Brand: Nike

    How is joining a brand like joining a religion? What is the power of listening to the consumer? How do you set up a sell-out new product launch? Stanley takes you through his process in building a stand out brand as creative director at Nike: you get an inside look at his branding strategy that brought the original product line to the full 360-degree consumer experience it is today.

  3. Brand Visuals: Lego

    Stanley takes his personal brand to the next level and creates his own role at Lego. He explains the process of rebranding - taking a well known corporate brand beyond its logo - and the roles of a brand book, brand promise, and developing visual language in this process. He answers important questions: What is the relationship between the emotional and practical in successful branding? How do you develop a reciprocal relationship with your brand fans, or most loyal customers?

  4. Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 1

    A good brand develops a “gut feeling” identity throughout the years; as a newcomer to a team, how do you learn this so-called “tribal knowledge”? What are brand guidelines and how are they essential to brand building? Stanley explains how to codify the ephemeral “feeling” of a brand in order to produce consistent brand messaging.

  5. Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 2

    You’ve established brand guidelines and you’ve created a brand book; how do you use these tools to bring your brand to every touch point with a consumer? Look inside Stanley’s process of redesigning product packaging and his reasoning behind decisions made. Learn how to go beyond traditional ad campaigns to create a memorable brand experience with your customers - to deepen their emotional attachment.

  6. Building a Creative Environment

    The creative process gets messy in the best way - how do you create a work environment that fosters creativity? Why is it important that brand messages and core values are reflected in a workplace itself? Designers often work together across disciplines, but how do you involve executives in the creative process? From t-shirts to competitions and design camps, Stanley discusses how to cultivate creativity in the workplace.

  7. Inside Tether: Behind the Scenes Studio Tour

    Take an exclusive tour within Tether, Stanley’s own branding agency to see a real-life example of a creative playground. From big-name clients, to developing a new brand, to personal projects, Stanley gives you behind the scenes access.

  8. Brand Case Study: Gatorade

    How do you reposition a company to remain relevant in a shifting market? What do you keep, change, and enhance in your brand strategy? When do you listen to consumer feedback, and when do you just make decisions? Stanley models how to expand beyond a specific product to create a line of customer offerings.

  9. Brand Case Study: Awake Chocolate and Swans Island

    Coca-Cola and Pepsi rely on big name recognition, but what about the smaller players in more niche markets? In this class, Stanley demonstrates the power of effective product packaging coupled with strategic marketing. Learn creative ways to harness social media to not only advertise, but also drive public relations. This is Marketing Techniques and Brand Storytelling 101.

  10. Brand Case Study: The Grove School

    Tether brand manager Kari Strand outlines the process of a unique project: a new brand involving many stakeholders in students, families, the company,and its teachers as essentially brand ambassadors. From developing a brand name to a myriad of marketing materials, you’ll see multi-use touch points that not only communicate important brand messaging, but also represent the brand’s core values. Kari models how to develop common language to dialogue with potential customers.

  11. LIVE Brand Case Study: Live Love Snack

    How do you reposition a brand to enter the mass market? Tether designers take us deep into the world of product packaging: learn how to problem-solve and watch as their designs evolve with each iteration. The Tether team answers essential design questions: how do you lead an effective brainstorming process? How does narrative fit into design? Why is hierarchy of information important?

  12. LIVE Brand Case Study: Squatch Watch

    What does a multi-disciplinary approach actually look like inside a creative agency? The Tether team demonstrates the benefits of non-work order projects by participating in a soapbox derby.

  13. Evolution of a Brand

    Long-term success requires evolution. Learn about the power of storytelling and the role of compelling taglines in the evolution of BMW motorcycles and Keen footwear. How do you build upon an existing legacy to expand into different markets? You do you re-ignite brand buzz?

  14. Create Your Own Opportunities

    Stanley dips into the not-for-profit arena; what does branding for a cause look like? How do you create consistent identity throughout the many arms of an international organization? Stanley returns to an old pet project that stuck - a concept he couldn’t shake. He closes with an affirmation: trust your journey.


Lily Raz

Stanley's branding class was packed with so many actionable takeaways!! I learned so much about the thinking behind how branding is important for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors. One of the biggest things I learned was when he said describing a brand is like describing a person to someone. He talked a lot about the process that it takes to build successful brands and keep them true to their promise. I really loved when he did a tour of his agency Tether. This class is filled with lots of creative material and great energy. I definitely recommend it! Thank you Creative Live!!


I am LOVING this class. I have heard "brand" explained in a lot of different ways, but Stanley's metaphors and examples made such sense to me that I actually feel like I have a firm grasp of what it means, and how I can make my own. Describing and showing his process with various brands was especially helpful. I feel empowered and excited (rather than overwhelmed, nervous, or uncertain) about strengthening my brand. Without Creative Live, I would not be able to take a class from an expert like Stanley Hainsworth, so I am especially grateful for today's course. Thank You! - Alexis (a.k.a. Free Range Al)


He is fun and engaging... This class has given me a whole new perspective of how to build my brand and keep it consistent as I go. The videos he shows are soo fun, and they show off his great sense of humor, and fun personality!!