In the past couple of years, LEGO has been making a lot of effort to attract adults to the hobby with their 18+ collection. Their focus is not just on current adult fans of LEGO, but also on those who are completely new to the hobby and are looking for a relaxing and creative activity. To differentiate these sets from those made for kids, the boxes are black with a minimalist design.
The black boxes certainly look sleek, and they do grab the attention of adult builders and hobbyists. Unfortunately, LEGO also decided to make the instruction books black, which created problems and complaints.
This is not the first time LEGO used black instruction books. They were introduced in the LEGO Architecture line, which was also targeting adult builders. However, LEGO Architecture sets are usually small with relatively few building steps, and the buildings are usually light-colored. These features made the instructions fairly easy to follow even with black pages.
The difficulty with black instruction books became especially pronounced when LEGO started using them for the large and complex sets in the 18+ collection. It’s very difficult to follow the instructions, especially when the pieces themselves are dark. The worst example is probably the #10277 LEGO Creator Crocodile Locomotive, containing mostly brown and black parts. You basically need to shine a flashlight on the pages to be able to make out the building steps.
LEGO also did not consider that the target audience of these sets likely has failing eyesight, which makes it even more difficult to follow instructions with such low contrast. It’s also worth considering that instructions on black paper use significantly more ink than standard instruction books.
After many complaints to customer service, LEGO finally decided to move away from black instructions. LEGO fan Sam Walker shared in the AFOL Facebook Group the following letter that he received from LEGO Customer Service.
I’m happy to let you know we’ve been listening to feedback about the background color in our building instructions. We’ve done lots of testing already and have plans to move away from the black backgrounds entirely.
We recognize how important it is to be mindful of visual and color impairment when we create our building instructions. We have LEGO designers with color impairment helping us improve in this realm.
We can’t give you a timeline or further details about improvements to the background color in our instructions, but we’re making sure we listen, learn, and get better.
If you already have some sets from the 18+ collection with black instruction books and you have trouble following them, you might consider the following tips. Use the best light you can, preferably natural daytime sunlight, or artificial light that mimics sunlight. Keep a good LED flashlight at hand, and shine it at the page from an angle. This should make it easier to see the instructions and differentiate darker colors. You might also want to try the online PDF version of the instructions. Sometimes they are easier to see, and you can manipulate the light and contrast that works best for you with your screen settings.
What do you think? Do you have any of the 18+ sets with black instructions? How do you like them? And do you have any other tips to make them easier to follow? Are you happy that LEGO is going to ditch black instructions books? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below!
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