LEGO Design Master Jan Ryaa and Senior Element Coach Sten Schmidt are retiring.
Jan has been with the LEGO Group for close to 48 years while Sten has been at the company for 42 years. Between them, they have their names on more than 70 LEGO element patents.
“Just because our names are on the patents doesn’t mean we can take all the credit,” said Jan, adding: “It has always been a team effort and we’re just proud to have played a part in the development of all these elements.”
Jan began his LEGO career back in 1974 building and helped develop many classic LEGO sets, including having a significant impact on the LEGO Technic brand.
“I was obsessed with getting more movement into the models and I started drilling holes in classic elements to insert axle rods,” said Jan.
“This is basically how the classic LEGO Technic bricks with holes came about.”
In 1979, Sten joined the LEGO Group and was assigned to XYZ, a ‘secret’ department looking to develop big new projects. Not a lot came out of XYZ, and in the mid-eighties he moved to Technic. Here he designed, among other models, the classic LEGO Technic Test Car set, which was the first Technic auto chassis to feature a body.
“One of the elements I’m most proud to have helped develop is the Technic beam without knobs, that gives a more stable model and that is still one of the most used Technic elements today,” said Sten.
“The beam builds on the system that Jan helped invent by drilling holes in bricks, but I filed the knobs off to get them right.”
In between XYZ and Technic, Sten was also instrumental in shaping the LEGO Education portfolio as he helped develop the first LEGO Dacta sets – a precursor to LEGO Education.
“It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with so many great people and teams along the way,” said Sten.
Jan added: “It’s fantastic to see that some of the things we have been working on are still used by our designers today. My only regret is that Sten ruined that great Technic element. Apart from that, it has been a pleasure working with him.”
On their last day as LEGO employees, Jan and Sten decided to walk out the door together.