LEGO® Master Tyler Clites Shares His Passion for Working with Companies to Build Memorable Experiences
You’ve seen the sets in stores. Maybe you’ve watched movies about them. If you or your kids have them, you probably know the pain of stepping on a piece or two. But how many people could make a successful career out of building with LEGO.
Tyler Clites sure has.
The Florida native fell in love with building at age 2, when he would play with Duplo toys, LEGO’s larger cousin. He received his first LEGO set for Christmas at age 2 and has been hooked ever since. As the winner of Fox’s LEGO Masters TV show in 2020, Tyler has turned his love for LEGO building into an award-winning business – creating LEGO sets for businesses and helping them engage with their audiences in ways that only impressive custom designs can. His work helps make his clients a hit at their trade shows and virtual events and provides unique, creative gifts and leave-behinds for their customers.
We recently talked with Tyler about his passion for all things LEGO, designing amazing models for companies, winning Fox’s LEGO Masters show and much more.
DH+: How did you come to be such a prolific LEGO designer? Did you plan to eventually do this for a living?
TC: It’s not something I pursued or something I thought would turn into a career. It just happened by chance or by providence. LEGO is something I’ve always loved as an art medium and something I can create with. I love having a system that is challenging because you’re limited by piece type and color. You’re limited by the connections. It’s not completely open-ended. It makes you think resourcefully, like an engineer. It’s a fun combination of art and engineering in one medium.
DH+: Tell us about your design firm, TC Brick Designs, and the work you do with corporate clients.
TC: I started getting clients in college. It was just a fun, side gig for a while. In the past few years following LEGO Masters, it skyrocketed to where I have a ton of different clients coming to me for kits to give away at trade shows or requests for huge LEGO models to put on display at their offices. I also do a variety of virtual events. Companies will want to do their end-of-the-year fun night of building or tie it into an initiative with a special LEGO set. I source all the bricks and create the instructions and print them. I can print on the actual bricks too if companies want to brand them. We also provide the packaging.
DH+: Working with companies at their corporate events or trade shows to build those unique experiences, how have you seen that help them connect with their audiences?
TC: For virtual events, the people I work with have been like “oh my goodness, that was the best-attended virtual event we’ve had in months, and everyone was engaged!” People are bringing their kids on and we’re all chatting and it’s engaging and fun. With the kits and trade shows, everybody at these shows is trying to stand out. But LEGO is something people have an emotional attachment to. When they see LEGO kits, it’s a completely different reaction and a non-threatening way to engage people. It helps draw people in. Then it gives the people at the booth the chance to engage. Probably 95% of people walk by and say “oh, that’s so cool!” The larger displays at trade shows engage people at multiple levels. You can see it from far away and be impressed by it, and then come up close and they’re seeing all the different aspects of it. LEGO has always been a well-known, cool, hip brand and companies are now linking that with their brand. It’s memorable.
DH+: You won Fox’s LEGO Masters show in 2020. What was that experience like?
TC: Their scouting team found me online and encouraged me to apply. I’d known about it and was trying to find friends in the LEGO community to apply with as a teammate. I’d just been married so I told them I didn’t really have a teammate and was going to pass, and they were like “wait, your wife? She can apply!” They were casting for interesting teams with a cool story, so they wanted to pitch us as the cute newlywed couple that’s on this LEGO TV show. They flew us out to LA for the casting finals and we realized we were going to be on the show.
DH+: Did you have to build something during casting?
TC: Yeah, they gave us two different building challenges. They wanted to see how you build under time pressure with limited pieces, how you work together as a team and how you appear on camera.
DH+: Okay, the one question everyone asks about LEGO: How often do you step on them?
TC: I knew that’s what the question was (laughs). I keep everything organized. There’s not any LEGO on the floor. I have a two-year-old who loves LEGO, so I’ve stepped on more LEGO since my two-year-old has been playing with them than I have in 30-plus years. As a kid I had a sea of LEGO on the floor in my room, so at one point I just parted the sea and used glow-in-the-dark pieces like a runway.
DH+: Do you think it is important to encourage and inspire younger people to learn and design with LEGO?
TC: Absolutely! It’s the ultimate toy. You can play with it, design with it, engineer with it and create art with it. It is so diverse, and you get an instant result. You’re not wasting materials and there’s almost an infinite number of combinations. Six two-by-four LEGO bricks can have 900 million combinations!
I’m half artist/half engineer. You’re learning so many life and occupational skills. Like “hey, I don’t have this piece that I want, but what other pieces can I use to achieve that goal?” That’s a life skill! That’s something you can apply to any occupation, science, or art. Even learning color theory and principles of design. It teaches you to think about different options. I grew up with many people in the LEGO community who have gone into science and engineering jobs, and it’s all because of LEGO.
DH+: From a designer’s standpoint, what inspires you?
TC: I’m inspired by cartoons that I grew up with. The things I like to create are things that have some degree of emotion that’s communicated through an interesting character – that’s just me personally. I also really like industrial design – the clean lines and elegance of products. I like to incorporate that. I want it to look polished and well thought out.
DH+: For businesses, do you enjoy creating large or smaller scale more? Do you suggest ideas to clients, or do they just tell you what they want?
TC: I like both for different reasons. Small ones are more intriguing. But I love the complexity of designing some large model and the reward of seeing the final product in its environment, or at the trade show is satisfying. In terms of suggesting ideas and working with clients, it runs the gamut. Some will say “we specifically want this.” Others will say “we want this, but see what you come up with,” and kind of give me free rein. I like to try and push clients to think outside the box a little more.
DH+: Tyler, this has been terrific. Thank you for your time and for sharing your experiences with us. What’s next on the horizon and where can people connect with you?
TC: Check out my website and social media. Right now, I’m trying to do more virtual events; more of everything. Maybe in the long run I need to hire more designers and flesh out the firm. It would be cool to build this into something that requires a warehouse and to design large-scale models for museums or events with a team of people – scale it up!
To learn more about Tyler and see how he can create a one-of-a-kind experience for your company, visit tylerclites.com. You can also connect with Tyler through his Instagram, Facebook and Flickr pages.