University of Canterbury’s researcher Christopher Bartneck has made an obvious discovery: Lego minifigs are not as happy now as they were 25 years ago when all their iconic, cleanly designed faces were happy. Now, they are mostly a mess — including facial expressions of anger, doubt, sadness or fear.
I hate the minifigs with different expressions. Not only they are terrible drawings, but their faces have an inescapable meaning. They are angry, fearful, doubtful, sad or whatever other human expression they try to portrait. There’s no way around that — they are fixed and they can’t be changed. They can’t be mentally erased. An angry minifig will always be an angry minifig. Poor minifig. Cheer up, you stupid little thing.
On the other hand, the classic face allowed kids to imagine anything they wanted. It didn’t matter the face was always “smiling”, because, by being common to all minifigs, it was perceived as the generic, neutral state. It was an icon for “face goes here, imagine anything you want”. And so we did — or at least I did! The classic minifig face is beautifully simple, devoid of any noise — it’s an extremely powerful design. So powerful that it became the popular icon that it is today.