Lego Luke: The making of a nerdy tribute to our fallen leader

By Jodi Chromey

Last week @the_nerdery tweeted about how some cultures commemorate their leaders in stone or on canvas, none of these mundane materials would do for Luke. No, instead The Nerdery's memorial is in the nerdiest of media: Legos. Today, we've got a little Q&A with the nerd behind the portrait.

This amazing tribute in one our meeting rooms is the work of Dan Piscitiello a Nerdery programmer who was looking for a fitting way to honor Luke and something that could be enjoyed by the other co-presidents.

"I kind of wanted it to be out of the way, so when you first see the portrait it takes you by surprise," Dan said. "The Legos in Brick House seemed like the perfect media in the perfect place."

So what did it take to put together the portrait? Dan said he used his phone's camera, a computer, Photoshop, and a printer.

He explains his process like this: "I started by taking pictures of all the different colored Legos in Brick House, then I took color samples of these images into Photoshop so I would know the color palette I was dealing with. For the picture of Luke, I just pulled his Nerdery profile picture off our website. After that it was ten or so steps in Photoshop as I played with different color schemes, posterization, and dithering options. At that point I enlarged the whole thing, placed a grid that represented individual pixels and hit print."

The portrait took Dan about two weeks to complete because he faced a few setbacks along the way.

"One of my original color choices ran out of Legos early on," he said. "At that point I had to dis-assemble and revisit Photoshop to pick a new color scheme. That first night I think I worked on it for about four hours. The next night I worked on it until I ran out of Legos."

Running out of Legos was the biggest setback he face, and some days he'd spend a few hours scrounging The Nerdery looking for the pieces he needed.

"Some Nerds advised I check Simon's desk," Dan said. "His kids like to play with the Legos. Other Nerds offered to bring in their own Legos from home so I could finish. Some even offered to pay for the additional Legos and one SDM [software development manager] even authorized me to go get what I needed and the company would cover it.

"I went to the Lego store at the mall, had a lovely conversation with a very enthusiastic Lego store employee and decided that I should probably calculate the colors and sizes I needed instead of just blindly buying them. But when I came to work the next day I found out that Jessica also went to the Lego store the night before and had picked up what I needed to finish.

"That night I stayed after Bottle Cap, listening to a Nerd Day's Night throwing down in the Theater and finished the portrait. I don't know how many Legos were ultimately used, but I think they cover roughly a 100 x 90 pixel (or should I say, "peg?") area."

Though Jess kept Dan supplied with Legos, and a lot of Nerds offered to help, the Lego Luke portrait was a solo project.

"It was really kind of a therapeutic exercise for me," he said. "A way to honor and remember Luke that hopefully the other Nerds would appreciate too."

As some may know, The Nerdery is no stranger to creating homages to the people/characters we like out of unusual objects. There's Rubik's Mario and Luigi, and our famous Conan Cubed. So we asked Dan, how does Lego Luke stack up to Conan?

"I love Conan, and the Conan Rubik's portraits were my original inspiration for a Luke portrait," he said. "At the time I was thinking we should make a giant Rubik's portrait of Luke for one of the walls in The Nerdery. Ever since then the idea of a Nerdy Luke portrait has been bubbling around in my head. In terms of nerdiness, I think Rubik's Conan and Lego Luke are pretty evenly matched but for obvious reasons I think the Luke portrait bears more sentimental weight for those who knew him."

Finally, we asked him what Luke would think of the memorial?

"I'd like to think Luke would get a kick out of it," Dan said. "He'd probably have some self-effacing, witty remark, like I "perfectly captured his blocky chin," or something in that vein. He was such a fun and inspiring guy to work for, we all miss him tremendously."

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Published by Jodi Chromey
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