“How to Look at a LEGO Brick”

© Copyright 2021 Shane Savage, Ryerson University

The Red LEGO Brick 2×2

LEGO pieces come in a wide assortment of colours, shapes and sizes, but of all the many thousands of pieces, there exists one piece that is perhaps more recognizable than any other: the “Brick 2×2” which many believe is used as the background for the LEGO group company logo. The red brick 2×2 as seen in figure 1.1 was released all way back in 1965 and is still printed to this day in 2021, making it one of the most printed bricks of all time, given its legacy and utility to the LEGO group (Bricklink). At just 1.35g, the red brick 2×2 is very light when picked up and has smooth sides and sharp corners that help define its simple looking square shape, making it one of the smaller but more versatile pieces that LEGO offers us to build with (ibid).

[Figure 1.1: Shane Savage, Red LEGO Brick 2×2. February 9th, 2021. ©Shane Savage

Dimensions

The red brick 2×2 in figure 1.1 is given its “2×2” classification based on the number of studs on the surface of the piece. A ‘stud’ is the small circle protruding from said surface of the LEGO piece. In this particular part, you can see there is 4 studs total, which makes it a “2×2” for ease of categorization. When pieces scale-up to the size of a 48×48 light bluish-gray baseplate, it becomes clear why classifications are done by multiplication as seen in figure 1.2.

[Figure 1.2: Shane Savage, Red LEGO Brick 2×2 on Light Blush Gray Baseplate 48×48. February 9th, 2021. ©Shane Savage]
When pieces scale all the way up to that massive size, it becomes far more manageable to say 48×48 baseplate rather than the 2304 stud baseplate, which makes piece categorization far easier to sort and organize for LEGO builders everywhere. If we look at figure 1.3, we can see even clearer just how dwarfed the brick 2×2 becomes when compared to the largest baseplate LEGO produces, further illustrating the importance of a classification system based on the dimensions length and width, rather than stud total.

[Figure 1.3: Closer Look at the Red LEGO Brick 2×2 on Light Blush Gray Baseplate 48×48. February 9th, 2021. ©Shane Savage]

Colour Grading

All LEGO pieces are given a colour grading based on a “colour family” system, which seeks to sort simple colours into simple categories. For instance, that same red brick 2×2 in figures 1.1,1.2 and 1.3 is seen by most to just be apart of the “red” colour family, but in terms of accuracy, its exact colour classification is known as ‘bright red’. This is important because Lego offers many different colour variations for red, such as dark red, reddish-brown, sand red and translucent red, which makes the specificity of colour matter more than simplistic naming systems like red, green or grey. Since the shade and colour gradient are all factored into their naming system, it is important to know which specific type of colour is used, otherwise, when ordering pieces from websites like Bricklink, you may receive the wrong colour if you are unaware of the obvious colour distinctions between them.

Element Identification

With both the dimensions of piece size and colour grading established, LEGO pieces are not fully categorized just yet for they are also given a unique item number as seen underneath the brick. The item number or “element identification” of the red brick 2×2 can be seen on the left side of the upside-down brick in figure 1.4. The item number reads as 03003, though the first 0 is regularly dropped from classifications because the initial 0 has no value to the rest of the sequence (it is only there when pieces scale past the 9999 unique item number).

[Figure 1.4: Shane Savage, Upside Down Red Brick 2X2 to show element identification. February 9th, 2021. ©Shane Savage]

Laser Precision

Have you ever wondered why LEGO pieces have a reputation of hurting like crazy when stepped on? Simple: the corners of the piece, particularly newer and moderately unplayed ones, have relatively sharp, precise laser cut and moulded corners. In figure 1.5, you can see that the highlighted corner of the used light bluish-gray brick 2×4 is dented and dulled, appearing to have lost its refined edge when compared to the fresh red brick 2×2 sitting above it, which helps illustrate the varied age and general wear and tear that each brick has written onto it. In LEGO, there is no hiding the age or use of a piece for this reason: Used bricks are often dented and dulled in the corners, and can range from a small impression to severe teeth gnaw marks from children or general discoloration and warping of the piece, harshly reducing its value to be used as nothing more than “junk” or “filler” pieces.

[Figure 1.5: Shane Savage, Highlighted Bricks of used (below) and new quality (above) Lego pieces. February 9th, 2021. ©Shane Savage]

Legacy

With the red brick 2×2, fully explored by LEGO’s very own item categorization system, we come to see that there are several relatively hidden details to their world-famous building blocks and pieces that can only be revealed upon closer inspection, such as the subtle detail of their logo moulded onto the top of every stud on almost every piece as seen in figure 1.6 below.

[Figure 1.6: Shane Savage, Red Brick 2×2 on 16×16 Green Plate. February 9th, 2021. ©Shane Savage]
All of these minor details add to the creativity and curiosity surrounding the brand’s reputation for years because it shows that every singly piece is made with intention, specificity, and modularity, but above all else, it adds just another layer to their product to continue to spark stimulation and creativity in all ages, which is one of the many wonders that LEGO has exclusively accomplished in their unique, one of kind products.


Works Cited

Figure 1.1: Shane Savage, Red LEGO Brick 2×2. February 9th, 2021. Private Collection.

Figure 1.2 Shane Savage, Red LEGO Brick 2×2 on Light Blush Gray Baseplate 48×48. February 9th, 2021. Private Collection.

Figure 1.3: Closer Look at the Red LEGO Brick 2×2 on Light Blush Gray Baseplate 48×48. February 9th, 2021. Private Collection.

Figure 1.4: Shane Savage, Upside Down Red Brick 2X2 to show element identification. February 9th, 2021. Private Collection.

Figure 1.5: Shane Savage, Highlighted Bricks of used (below) and new quality (above) Lego pieces. February 9th, 2021. Private Collection.

Figure 1.6: Shane Savage, Red Brick 2×2 on 16×16 Green Plate. February 9th, 2021. Private Collection.

Authors Note: All photos in each figure are taken by me, Shane Savage. Both references below are not direct quotations, but rather sources for the exact dimensions, colour grading and product codes for references.

https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?P=3003&idColor=5&name=Red%20Brick%202%20x%202&category=%5BBrick%5D#T=C&C=5

https://www.lego.com/en-us/page/static/pick-a-brick?query=brick%202×2&page=1

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.