Singapore Lego artist’s rejected design for LTA toy train ‘strikingly similar’ to end product

Singapore Lego artist’s rejected design for LTA toy train ‘strikingly similar’ to end product

"It’s my fault for not being careful," Lego artist Jeffrey Kong says, while the Land Transport Authority says it's "inevitable that the eventual product will bear close resemblance to the actual train".

lego vs lta
A screengrab of the Facebook post by brick artist Jeffrey Kong describing the similarities between his rejected draft for a miniature train and the final product.

SINGAPORE: An established Singaporean Lego brick artist on Saturday (Oct 14) pointed out what he said was a “striking” resemblance between his rejected draft design for a Downtown Line miniature train and the final product which the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will put on sale Sunday.

Mr Jeffrey Kong, 37, is the founder of the Artisan Bricks company. His works have been commissioned by corporate firms like Deloitte as well as Government bodies such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

He told Channel NewsAsia it was “no one’s fault” but his for “not being careful” during the tender process with LTA - an experience he detailed in a Facebook post.

In June this year, Mr Kong put in a bid to design and produce a public transport collectible for LTA. An LTA spokesperson said that potential bidders were informed that the final product has to resemble the actual Downtown Line train.

At the end of the month, Mr Kong went to the tender office to submit a physical material sample. That was when LTA staff asked if they could have the draft design he had on hand, “to aid their management in the decision-making process”.

Said Mr Kong: “My policy is to not do that unless I am paid a design fee, but this time I relented and passed it to them. All this happened at the tender office, so it was verbal and not documented in the email trail.”

A month later, he was informed that the tender had been awarded to another vendor.

Then in October, Mr Kong was tipped off to the end product, posted online by LTA and due to go on sale for S$24 on Oct 15.

Alarmed by the design similarities, he headed to the LTA office on Friday (Oct 13) to make a case, with his original draft in tow.

“The similarity is uncanny, right down to the sideways building using the same curves and plates in the front of the model,” said Mr Kong.

“I asked if there could have been a leak, and the LTA staff said ‘not possible’, as the only people who had seen my draft sample are themselves and their management, and that they did not share this with their appointed vendor at all.”

Mr Kong added: “The LTA staff said that their appointed vendor came up with the brick design by themselves with the reference pics provided, and said that since the reference materials provided are the same, any vendor would have come up with something that looks the same.”

“So there you have it. It’s just a coincidence.”

“JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THE LIFE OF A LOCAL ARTIST”

In response to queries, LTA confirmed it did not disclose individual bidders' submissions to other bidders.

Said a spokesperson: "When Mr Kong spoke to LTA staff on Friday, we mentioned that since the product will need to (be) modelled after the actual Downtown Line train, it is inevitable that the eventual product will bear close resemblance to the actual Downtown Line train.”

But initial reactions to Mr Kong’s Facebook post suggested this was another case of copyright infringement and “mistreatment of people in the creative industry”. One commenter referred to the “unhealthy practice” of having one vendor do the design before passing it wholesale to another vendor with the lowest price quote.

Still, Mr Kong stressed that he was not after compensation from any party and that his experience was “nothing more than a case study” for fellow artists to learn from.

“Must remember to never hand over any physical works for any tender, even if it is just a draft, and no matter how nicely the client asks,” he posted. “Ah well, just another day in the life of a local artist. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

He later edited his post to add that LTA was “not at fault”.

“Also I’d like to thank the LTA staff who attended to me late afternoon yesterday – one of them had actually already left for home, but returned to office to clarify things with me,” he said.

While Mr Kong declined further comment to Channel NewsAsia in the interest of “moving on”, he said he would still urge the public to purchase the LTA train collectible.

“Because their website says the sales proceeds will help the disadvantaged with their land transport needs,” he explained. “It’s also heartening that something that looks so much like my draft design is deemed good enough for sale.”

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