LEGO celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and there will be plenty to celebrate.
The construction toys, which have become one of the most recognisable in the world, have gone from strength to strength since they were invented by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in 1958.
Kristiansen was a carpenter based in Billund, Denmark, who specialised in children’s toys. After WWII, there was a huge focus on rebuilding and reconstruction. This came with the simultaneous popularity of a novel new material; plastic. The combination of these factors served as the genesis for the coloured bricks we have come to know and love.
After several prototypes which took place over the course of almost a decade, Khristiansen patented the iconic, tube-filled LEGO brick in 1958. LEGO is a rough translation of the Danish phrase for ‘play well’, and with the new design allowing for even more potential creations to be formed, play well they did.
It did not take long for the toy to become a worldwide phenomenon. The bricks, which held almost limitless possibilities, also contained another unique element. The features of the little characters were yellow, a neutral colour which didn’t reflect any specific race or religion. Since then, LEGO have always been an inclusive and socially-conscious company.
Kids everywhere went crazy for LEGO and it has since become a multi-generational success, remaining one of the few family activities which doesn’t involve a screen. That being said, LEGO is far from archaic in its approach. A range of video games, including franchises such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and the DC Universe, have sold by the million. Recent animated movies such as The LEGO Movie, LEGO Batman and Ninjago have also solidified LEGO‘s standing with the current generation of children.
“LEGO play is powered by imagination and curiosity, and the LEGO brick is at the very heart of it – putting the bricks together and taking them apart over and over, with imagination as your only limit. This helps young minds to stay open, keep exploring and develop skills essential for the 21st century*, such as creativity, collaboration and problem solving,” said Julia Goldin, Chief Marketing Officer, the LEGO Group, in a recent company statement.
The unparalleled success of the family business has certainly changed the fortunes of the once-impoverished Kristiansens. Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, grandson of the original founder, is now one of Denmark’s wealthiest billionaires, and the empire shows no sign of slowing down. The LEGOLAND resort in Billund now boasts almost 2 million visitors every year.
To find out the full story, check out this short LEGO anniversary animation.