Lego – the children’s toy comprising of multi coloured plastic interlocking bricks -was “born” in 1934 when Danish master carpenter and toymaker, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, combined the Danish words “leg godt” – which means “play well” – to form the now famous brand name.
In 1947, together with his son Godtfred, Kristiansen obtained samples of interlocking plastic bricks produced by Kiddicraft. These had been designed and patented in the UK by a child psychologist – Hilary Harry Fisher Page. Lego began producing similar bricks in 1949, named “automatic binding bricks”.
They were not an immediate success as plastic toys were considered to be inferior to wooden ones at this time. There were some early problems with the brick’s locking abilities and it was not until 1958 that the modern design was developed.
Even then, it took a further 5 years to find exactly the right material for optimum performance. The material chosen in 1963 was acrylonitrile butadiene styrene – or ABS – very common today, but groundbreaking and innovative at the time.
In 1959 Lego was introduced to the UK, Belgium and France. The product was launched in the USA and Canada in 1961 and was an immediate success. Continuous development and the introduction of new ranges – often tied in with major motion pictures – has ensured that Lego remains popular today with the children and grandchildren of the first generation to get their hands on it.
There are product lines for all ages – starting from the youngest children whose needs are catered for by the Duplo range, the standard range and The technic and Mindstorm ranges for older children, teenagers and even adults. Themed sets exist for Pirates, Dinosaurs, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, Bionicles etc.
There are currently no fewer than four “Legoland” theme parks in existence (one in Denmark, one in the UK, one in Germany and one in the USA). Adults and children can visit to see fantastic examples of Lego models and creations, visit themed areas, go on fun rides and even drive electric lego cars or pilot lego boats.
There is also, of course, a website, where children can see the latest lego creations, get hints and tips on how to use their lego toys, take part in online discussions and get access to a wide variety of downloads.
It is even used for business training events, as a tool to both demonstrate production processes and engender teamworking! There seems to be no end to its versatility.
However, whilst there can be no doubt that the wide and frequently updated product range is a major factor in Lego’s ongoing success, and the marketing and web presence also help, the key enduring factor is that it stimulates children’s creativity and appeals to their innate curiosity. The fundamentally educational nature of the toy, and the fun that its use provides, means that it also receives widespread approval from adults.
All in all, it seems likely that the multi-coloured plastic blocks are likely to be around for a long time – in some shape or form.