If you were a kid at any point in the last 80 years, you likely have fond memories of playing with Legos, often for hours at a time. If you’ve got kids, you probably still play with them. And if you grew up with siblings or have more than one child, you’ve likely wondered at least once if the name of these essential building blocks was derived from “Leggo,” as in “Leggo of that. It’s mine!”
It’s a legitimate idea, but LEGO is actually derived from two Danish words “leg” and “godt”, which are “play” and “well.” The LEGO Group was started by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in 1932 and it remains a family company—his grandson Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen currently runs the business. In its online history, the company states that the fact that “lego” means “I put together” in Latin is purely coincidental.
LEGO originally manufactured toys made of wood—the first being a duck pull-toy—with wooden bricks and figures introduced in 1946. Interestingly, the LEGO logo in 1946 also said “Klodsen” (“the brick”), although the LEGO brick had not yet become the brand’s ubiquitous product.
That same year, the company invested in a plastic injection molding machine and, in 1949, it introduced the “LEGO Automatic Binding Brick” with four and eight studs. They were produced in four colors and only sold in Denmark. The Lego logo in 1950 again featured the “Made in Denmark” slogan.
By 1953, the name of the automatic binding brick was changed to “LEGO Mursten,” which translates to LEGO “Bricks”, and the company applied for a trademark registration on what would become their most popular product. LEGO’s logo in 1953 becomes the closest yet to the one they use today.
After meeting a purchasing agent on a ferry trip to England, Godtfred—founder Ole’s son—came up with the idea of a system of play utilizing LEGO bricks. In 1955, LEGO introduced this “LEGO System of Play,” which includes a variety of sets, vehicles and accessories. LEGO’s logo now included the words “system of play” and “bricks” and, indeed, the LEGO brand seemed to be coming all together.
You know the satisfactory clicking sound of two LEGO bricks snapping together? That stud-and-tube coupling system was introduced in 1957 and copyrighted in 1958. By 1959, LEGO was established in Sweden, England, Belgium and France and the logo began to feature English.
The company briefly added what look like stacked colored LEGO bricks to the logo from 1961-1964,
but then removed them again, as the LEGO logo in 1964 became the red square that we recognize today.
In 1973, the LEGO Group unified under one logo. LEGO’s licensing agreement with Samsonite USA, which had been implemented in 1961, also ended in 1973 and the company established itself in Connecticut.
The company tweaked the logo slightly to make it “graphically tighter” in 1998, but otherwise the one used today has been pretty much in use for more than 40 years.
In those 40 years, LEGO introduced its PRIMO line for babies, its DUPLO line for toddlers and its MINDSTORMS Robotics system. LEGOLAND theme parks expanded into other countries outside of Denmark. Fortune magazine declared the LEGO brick one of the “Products of the Century” for the 20th century, and LEGO partnered with Disney and Warner Bros.
The company went through rough patches and factory closures over the years, but is now showing strong growth and revenues. LEGO has come a long way in the last 80 years, and LEGO bricks are still one of the only toys that parents enjoy playing with their children. We just don’t enjoy stepping on them, in the dark, barefoot. Am I right?