The modern Lego has been around for over 50 years. But in fact, the history of Legos toys dates back many more years. The Lego Group was founded in Denmark in 1934 by Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter who had become quite adept at making wooden toys. For over a decade, the company successfully sold a wide range of pull-along wooden toys ranging from animals to cars and trucks.
In 1947, the company made what was considered a massive investment at the time in a plastic injection molding machine. This investment gave birth to a new line of plastic toys which paid off handsomely for the company. Then in 1949, the Lego Group produced the first of what would become a legend in its own right: “Automatic Binding Bricks”. Although slightly different from the Lego bricks we have today, this development paved the way for what has become the modern Lego. Similar in size, form and function, the Automatic Binding Brick continued to be improved upon by the company. In 1954, the company officially registered the “LEGO” name as a trademark.
As the development of the Lego brick continued, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, Ole’s son, who was now an active executive at the company, came up with the idea of creating a “play system” based around their Lego brick. He credits the spark of this idea to a conversation he had with an overseas toy buyer who commented that there was no real system in the toy industry. This system gave birth to the very first Legos sets. The modern lego brick and design was patented in early 1958, and took another 5 years to perfect the materials for it. Amazingly, bricks from 1958 are still compatible with today’s modern brick!
During the 1960’s, LEGO became a household name and an international sensation. By the end of that decade, the Lego group had sold legos in more that 42 countries around the world and had opened a theme park in Denmark that attracted more than half a million visitors in its first year. In the 1970’s Lego branched out to create toys for boys, girls, pre-schoolers and advanced builders. This decade brought about two important developments for Lego: The classic Legos sets themes and the world-famous Legos figures, also known as, Minifigs or Minifigures. The company continued its meteoric rise during the 80’s and 90’s with expansion into education, video games, mail order catalogs, the launch of the official Lego website and the company’s own branded retail stores around the world.
It was also in the 90’s that the company took one of its most notable risks that has paid off massive dividends. In 1999, Lego began using licensed themes to market their products. Star Wars, their first licensed debut was a record-breaking success for the company. Since then, Lego has strategically partnered with several cartoon and movie icons to create theme sets that include Batman Legos, Harry Potter Legos, Spongebob Legos, Indiana Jones Legos, Spiderman Legos, Toy Story Legos, and many more.
Today the LEGO company continues to grow. In addition to ongoing licensing deals, the company is focusing on developing their own characters and sets. They are also focusing on new media opportunities, through the development of online games, video games and the highly successful DesignByMe 3.0, which is an online platform that gives Lego fans the opportunity to customize and build their own Lego set and packaging. The only limitation is a users imagination! As the company looks to the future, two things will remain certain, the Lego brick will be at the center of their development strategy and Legos toys will continue to inspire the imaginations of young and old builders alike.