Deriving from the Danish words ‘leg’ (to play) and ‘godt’ (good) Lego's brightly coloured interconnecting plastic bricks and creative play systems have become widely celebrated worldwide and it has been calculated that, by the early 21st century, almost 200 billion pieces of Lego had been sold. The origins of this highly successful enterprise lay in a workshop for the production of wooden toys and ladders established by Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932 in Billund, Denmark. The company has grown subsequently to become Europe's largest toy manufacturer. It has associated theme‐parks (Legoland) opening in Denmark in 1968 and near Windsor, England, in 1994, the production of CD‐ROMs for ‘virtual’ Lego building, the introduction of programmable, interactive electronic bricks in 1998, as well as clothing and other merchandise bearing the Lego name.
The name Lego was adopted as early as 1934 although the company did not take up the manufacture of plastic toys until 1947 when it purchased injection‐moulding machinery. Ole Kirk Christiansen's son Gotfred invented and patented the classic design for the famous and highly versatile modular interlocking brick with studs that was introduced in 1958, although the Lego System had been introduced four years earlier. The possibilities for inventive play were soon recognized as export markets for Lego developed rapidly from the late 1950s. In 1969, Duplo—a larger, more easily manipulated form of Lego—was introduced for younger children, a process of constant innovation and development that, on the one hand, included the introduction of the sophisticated Technics system in 1977 and the programmable RCX brick in 1998 (building on collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA) and, on the other, Lego figures in 1974 and a toddlers' version of the brick system entitled Primo in 1995. New directions for encouraging children's imaginative play have been further stimulated through the development of several hundred themed sets, ranging from the more traditional notions of electric train sets fashioned from Lego bricks, through to others that feature haunted castles, space exploration, and robotics. The Lego idea has been sustained further through the theme‐parks in Denmark and Britain, which feature reproductions of towns and environments constructed from Lego blocks drawn from a variety of countries and cultures.
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.