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Brick by brick, turning Westword's logo into LEGOs

The idea was so delightful we had to give it a shot: For this week's cover story, which details how local video game developer NetDevil is creating a LEGO version of World of Warcraft with the game LEGO Universe, why not transform Westword's signature cover logo into a giant LEGO creation?

Thankfully, Duane Hess, NetDevil's digital model model designer -- aka LEGO builder extraordinaire -- was happy to oblige. Hess worked with Westword art director Jay Vollmar to create a four-foot-long, bright-red LEGO-ized logo, which graces our cover this week and now decorates the office window of Westword editor Patty Calhoun, much to the amazement of passersby. See below for a Q&A with Hess describing how he built our office's pride and joy.

Westword (Joel Warner): Can you describe the process of turning Westword's logo into LEGOs? Did you just start building, or did you have to plan it out first?

Duane Hess: I used a computer program to pixelate an image file of the logo into LEGO dimensions. This gave me a pretty close approximation of what the end result would look like. Experience has taught me that there's some interpretation that needs to happen to make everything work out, so I used it only as a guideline. Once I knew what it would look like, I chose the most common LEGO elements that would result in a structurally sound model. Since the logo was intended to be freestanding, structural stability was a huge factor in the construction. The W's were a bit of a problem because some of the sections were very thin. I had to employ some advanced building techniques on the interior to make sure that they would be able to stand under their own weight.

WW: Approximately how many bricks did you use?

DH: Lots! Unfortunately, I didn't keep track.

WW: How long did it take you to build?

DH: I built the logo in approximately six hours, including design and planning.

WW: What are the differences between recreating a 2-D object like a logo and building a 3-D model of something like a house?

DH: In a lot of ways, the logo is easier to build than the house. A logo is generally simplistic in design for recognizability and ease of reproduction and this translates through to reproducing it with LEGO elements. I was able to use about ten unique types of elements in the Westword logo, even with it using hundreds of pieces. A house usually has lots of detail, especially if you want to decorate the interior. Even a simple design can have fifty or sixty unique LEGO elements.

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WW: How long would it take you to take apart and put away in your library all of the LEGO bricks used in the logo?

DH: Disassembling and sorting the parts used in the logo would probably take a little over an hour given that the variety of elements used is so low. The fun part is the breaking it down.

WW: Finally, do you have any idea how happy you've made the entire Westword staff with your creation?

DH: I'm in the fortunate minority of people who have been able to turn something that they love into a career. Part of my motivation even as a fan builder was to make people smile. If I can do that as part of my job as well, then it's just an added bonus.

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