Everybody knows that what kids love to do the most is to play with their toys. Even the biggest psychologists in the world recognize the importance of play in a child’s development.
But besides the names of well-known toy brands, most people know very little about the ‘inspirers’ in the creation of toys, and who these adults are that are behind their construction.
Dimitris Stamatis is a young Greek creator and designer of LEGO. He grew up playing with the LEGO bricks and dreamt of one day working for the legendary Danish toy brand.
After taking part in game design events and competitions in Greece, Dimitris has managed to make his dreams and aspirations come true.
Since 2016, he has been working as the Product Designer of Ninjago LEGO and is part of the biggest team of LEGO creators for toys, movies and the whole LEGO franchise.
In a recent interview with Greek portal mylittlestories.gr Dimitris said that his motto in life has always been: “In order to achieve something you must first overcome your fears.”
He described his journey with LEGO through his childhood memories and his desire to create a mythical world of warriors and dragons for kids and adults.
“For many years, I just didn’t know how to move forward with my life after school. I studied indie game design, but I never thought that this could be my future. I had dreams, but I did not feel that I could become an actual game designer.
“I was learning new things on my own without a goal. Was it a job? Was it a hobby? I didn’t know and I believed that miracles don’t really happen, so I continued spending my everyday learning, without serious thought and action for the future,” Dimitris explained.
“One day my brother told me that you have to find what you would like to do in your daily life and chase it. And immediately LEGO came to my mind.
“I grew up playing with LEGO bricks, I liked the building combination process, the design and the creativity of the game. It really suited me!”
Just like many hopeful LEGO enthusiasts from around the world, who have dreamt of working for the toy company, Dimitris took initiative and decided to follow his passion, regardless of the doubts he had about himself.
“I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t think that I was good enough for a job at LEGO. There was the fear of inadequacy and the fear of taking responsibility without being 100% sure that I would be able to succeed in the company.
“Nevertheless, I applied for jobs at LEGO and after a couple of rejections, I was given the biggest opportunity to work as a product designer!” said Dimitris.
“I faced many challenges on the way, and you value things differently when you have seen and experienced a difficult situation, so I am grateful for where I am today.”
Forbes magazine named LEGO as ‘the most successful and most influential toy brand in the world’, with an average annual revenue of 5 billion euros, leaving Mattel, Nintendo, Hasbro and Playmobil behind in their wake.
The company, whose name is an abbreviation of the Danish phrase “leg godt” and means “play well”, was created in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, a Danish carpenter, who created wooden toys for kids in his workshop.
As Dimitris explains, it is no surprise that even schools encourage kids to play with LEGO: “This is a game that really develops skills. We create sets and concepts for all ages and for people to use logic and enjoy LEGO as an educational program. It all starts with simple constructions, putting two bricks on top of each other, and it goes up to complex mechanisms and robotic programming.”
“With these types of toys, the child acquires important mental skills and recognizes how something is connected to something else, how it stands and when it falls, and slowly, a child is able to place pieces in other directions, sideways, diagonally, upside down, and learns to distinguish right from left” he added.
“With LEGO, you can see beyond the obvious, use your imagination and think out of the box. Kids learn not to be afraid to start something of their own from scratch and not to be afraid of making errors. There is no mistake when it comes to creativity,” Dimitris emphasized about both the educational and entertainment sides of playing with the toy bricks.
When talking about what inspires the different themes and concepts of his creations with LEGO, Dimitris explained that inspiration is not always clear, but it is rather an experimental process.
“Everything you hear or see can be a source of an idea and ultimately be expressed in what you do. I have always liked the medieval imagination, dragons, swords, video games, movies, comics and books, music, animals, nature, physics. I am always thinking of the characters I am creating and what they portray.”
“In fact, good design needs no explanation, not just in a game or toy, but in anything that can be designed,” he stated.
The young Greek designer also talked about his life in Denmark and how he misses the Greek sun and conversations with fellow Greeks.
“For me, the main difficulty is the lack of family and friends. Here, there are friendships too, but the depth of a conversation with people who have a greater common ground and greater comfort in expressing themselves in a common language, with which you have grown up, is special.”
Apart from his life-long dream to work with LEGO and bring all his creative ideas to reality, Dimitris referred to the happiness he feels when he sees kids buying his LEGO creations and how the excitement that he brings to their lives, drives and motivates him to create more.
“The first time I saw my own toy leave the shelf was through a photo that my sister took of a kid from a store. Later I saw children and parents buying my LEGO as gifts.
“How can this emotion be described? How to put into words the feeling you feel when you see the excitement in a child’s eyes and know that he will probably carry the experience and memory of this game throughout his life.”
Although, the world is experiencing unprecedented times and most industries are struggling to keep up with the global financial shutdown, Dimitris said that he always receives positivity and happiness through his work.
“Everything I make has a little of my love, thought and heart, and that is what connects me so much to the joy of children. It is so deep and personal,” says Dimitris.
“As I usually say, and I really believe it, that in every difficulty my motivation and joy is the thought that some kids out there will grow up and remember something I made as their favourite toy.”
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