Interview With Toy Designer Alex Kubalsky

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Hello readers, today we are joined by Alexander Kubalsky, toy designer and AFOL. Thanks for being here Alex. If you would be so kind, tell our readers a little about yourself and what you do.

Hello, thanks for having me. I guess you could say I’m an engineer or inventor working specifically in transformable toys and objects. This can mean working for toy franchises like The Transformers but can also mean when Ben 10 or Scooby-Doo need something to turn into something else, I'm generally the guy they call. I design characters, vehicles, weapons, and objects of a non-transforming nature from time to time as well.

How long have you been building with LEGO and how would you say that has influenced you and your career?

I started building LEGO when I was around 4 or 5 years old. The first sets I had were the taxi and police car from 1979, followed by the first space sets like the 918 space ship which I still have. Classic space is still my all-time favorite line and I proudly own 10 copies of the first LEGO ideas book 6000. It was my bible as a kid.

Lego would be the first and most important influence in my career. It was the first tool that I had access to as a kid and it allowed the more complex ideas I had in my head to take shape. I was so obsessed with building LEGO that I would go to sleep building things in my head and then try to build it in reality the next day. It was very important in developing my three-dimensional conceptualization skills that I would use later on in my transformer work. In fact, when people ask about how I come up with the parts and transformations in my transformer work I tell them that transformer design is just like playing with LEGO except that you design the parts as you go. You ask yourself what part would fit here and go from there. 

When I was a teenager I got into filmmaking and story writing and LEGO helped me make my first film, The Parasite.

The clean modular nature and simple geometric shapes of LEGO helped influence my design work. For example, I prefer to work a design back to as simple and few interruptions in the shapes as possible. I’m always looking for the core basic form in anything and the adding complexity and detail from there.

After years and years of inventing thousands of transformations I had a breakthrough moment when I pitched a transformable modular system to LEGO, but that’s a whole other story for another time!

What advice do you have for people who want to become toy designers?

That’s a hard one for me to answer because I would be lying if I knew the secret to becoming a toy designer. Never forget that excitement you had as a kid over toys and the joy of escaping into the micro worlds that a toy line offers you. This is key to being a successful world builder which is what any good toy line is really. Build a world around your characters and designs. This world building skill can make someone a great toy designer as well as whole lot of other careers like film maker, author, and more.

It does take a lot of passion and energy to really push yourself to innovate and stay motivated. My motivation has always been to do something new. I see how others are doing it, study that, master it, and then innovate on it. The key thought being, “That’s cool but what if I...”

The best advice I can give is only believe what you know to be true. This means doing research into what’s out there and what people want next or ‘what's not out there yet.’ Once you get that feeling you are on to something new and innovative that will motivate and give you the confidence to finish something, a design, a pitch, or a prototype. 

And lastly, who are you really working for? I’ve never been about anything more than just making the coolest stuff that 10-year-old me would have loved. He’s still in there somewhere.


If you are interested in seeing more of Alex’s work, check out Mastermind Creations.
Images provided by Alex Kubalsky, used with permission. Interview edited for clarity.