Is LEGO the Perfect Design System??

Jason Cyr
3 min readDec 27, 2017


So, its a couple days post Christmas and I have just finished assembling about 1500 pieces of Lego — mostly Batman LEGO which Ill admit I actually quite enjoy :)

Lego as a Design System?

Anyhow… while I was sipping eggnog and putting together these lego sets I starting to realize that LEGO has established what might be one of the best design systems I have worked with.

Pure Atomic Design

I mean think about it, LEGO is a natural atomic design system.

The iconic little blocks and pieces represent the atoms. Those atoms come together to form smaller components which are the molecules, and molecules come together to form organisms, which form products that exist within a theme.

The higher up the chain you go… the more specialized things become so for example an organism that exists for a Batman lego set will be specific to the batman lego kit you are creating, but it will contain molecules that exist across the whole Batman theme, and atoms that are generic across all lego kits regardless of the theme. New atoms are rarely introduced, but when they are they become available for any theme to use.

A design language is defined as: an overarching scheme or style that guides the design of a complement of products.

Based on a standard definition, LEGO is perhaps the perfect design system!

The amazing designers at Lego who get to come up with new kits are constrained to work within the system of blocks and patterns that have been established. There are strict rules in place that govern not only the way that they kits are designed, but those same rules also facilitate the way that they are assembled by the end user. Anyone who has kids has seen these constraints and patterns and once you start to recognize them it becomes easier and easier to build stuff because you are repeating common molecules and organisms along the way.

Perfectly Branded

A strong design language also is deeply rooted to the parent brand, and once again I would argue that LEGO has done a brilliant job here as well. All it takes is one tiny little atomic piece of LEGO for someone to recognize that it is in fact a lego product and that is really astonishing because the brand remains strong and in tact regardless whether you are looking at a single piece or a completed set. Its all LEGO.

Docs are part of the design system

Even the instructions are perfect. I mean, as a UX leader who is also responsible for technical documentation I think the Lego docs are brilliant. They lead children and adults alike through the process of creating some very complex products and they do it WITHOUT USING A SINGLE WORD!!

A big reason that Lego’s instructions are so intuitive is because of the design system that it exists within. Small simple concepts are developed, repeated and built upon to create more complex components.

Patterns also emerge within the docs themselves which make for really easy assembly and actually anticipate the needs of the end-user by highlighting areas where common mistakes occur, or even giving you 1:1 scale photos of a piece to make sure its not mistaken for one of a smaller size.

I would LOVE to see how they usability test new designs and new instructions.

I’m going to bring some lego to work

All of this has really made me want to bring some lego to work so that our design teams can be inspired and learn from a true master of design system and design language (and Ill admit it will also be fun to assemble)



Jason Cyr

Design Executive responsible for Cisco’s Cyber Security portfolio.