The University of Iowa

In the news: Designing the Lego digital experience

August 6th, 2019

By Rebekah Tilley and Tom Snee

University of Iowa alumnus Bret Schafbuch is living a Lego-obsessed 7-year-old’s dream.

The Victor, Iowa, native is a senior manager of user experience and prototypes at the Lego Group headquarters in Billund, Denmark—a place where no one but Lego employees are allowed to enter if they are over the age of 12.

“Lego” is an extraction of the Danish phrase leg godt, or “play well.” The company, known for the iconic colorful, plastic bricks, has long explored how to extend healthy play into digital spaces, which is where Schafbuch and his department come in. They produce apps that accompany Lego products, and design and build software that supports internal model designers. Most recently, in collaboration with internal teams, they developed an app called Powered Up, which allows builders to drive the newly released remote-controlled Lego Batmobile.

As designers of user experience, Schafbuch and his team study how people feel and how they accomplish tasks when they use technology. One of the joys and challenges of designing for kids, says Schafbuch, is “many of the paradigms we think work for adults pretty much don’t apply to children.”