Ole Kirk Christiansen, a Danish carpenter, began making wooden bricks as toys for his children in 1932. He had no idea that this humble beginning would set the groundwork for a toy empire. In 1949, he and his son and business partner Godtfred Kirk Christiansen switched from wooden to plastic bricks, selling them under the name “Automatic Binding Bricks.”

The company was then renamed Lego, which has since become one of the most popular and successful toy brands in history. Surprisingly, many people have no idea what the name Lego implies.

What Does the Term “Lego” Mean?

The name Lego is derived from two Danish words, “leg godt,” which means “play well.” In Latin, it also means “I put together,” which perfectly encapsulates the heart of the brand. While Ole Kirk Christiansen considered the name “LEGIO” (which means “legions”), he ultimately chose Lego because it signified high-quality play and a devotion to children’s growth via play. Every Lego brick now bears the brand’s promise to delivering a product that stimulates imagination, creativity, and joy in every kid.

In carrying on his father’s objective, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen believed in producing a toy that would prepare children for life by nurturing their imagination, creativity, and the pleasure of creation that exists within every human being. Lego products are now offered in over 130 countries, with branches on five continents and over 23,000 employees.

From Humble Beginnings to a Global Phenomenon

The Lego brand, on the other hand, has humble beginnings. Ole Kirk Christiansen established a carpenter shop in 1916, selling various furniture products such as ladders and stools.

Unfortunately, in 1924, a fire sparked by his boys mistakenly destroyed everything, including their family home. Undaunted, Christiansen saw this as a chance to expand his business. However, the Great Depression struck in 1929, causing financial difficulties for the family. To make matters worse, Christiansen’s wife died in 1932, requiring him to lay off a large number of employees.

Christiansen needed to discover economic things that people would buy because money was tight. Cheap toys were among these low-cost items. It was difficult at first, and Christiansen even declared bankruptcy. When his siblings offered him a loan on the condition that he quit selling toys, he turned them down. He discovered his actual aptitude as a toymaker at this time, and his products began to receive notoriety and sell.

Christiansen’s designs developed a nationwide following by the 1940s. Even now, vintage enthusiasts adore his best-selling duck on wheels with an opening and closing beak. His journey, however, was not without difficulties. When Germany invaded Denmark in 1942, another fire destroyed his whole facility. Christiansen saw another opportunity to restore and expand his firm. With numerous trade materials in short supply after WWII, businesses turned to plastic as a low-cost replacement.

Plastic injection molding, in which molten plastic is poured into a mold to generate specified shapes, was an important manufacturing method that evolved. However, due to its scarcity, Denmark prohibited its commercial usage until 1947.

Despite this, Christiansen purchased his first molding machine in 1946 and began experimenting with new types of toys. The original incarnation of the Lego brick, known as the Automatic Binding Brick, was launched by the business in 1949. These one-of-a-kind self-locking bricks were inspired by concepts by the British company Kiddicraft, which Lego received permission to use at the time. Lego officially acquired the rights to these designs in 1981.

A Play and Resilience System

Ole Kirk Christiansen died tragically in 1958. His son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, soon after devised a “System of Play,” which changed the Lego experience. This inventive concept was based on the premise that all Lego bricks should be interconnected, allowing for infinite creation and play. The System of Play was the cornerstone of Lego’s success.

However, tragedy happened again just five years after the new system was launched. After a tragic fire destroyed the entire wooden toy stockpile, Lego decided to discontinue the production of wooden toys and focus only on plastic toys. Despite three fires, Lego persevered and grew, eventually becoming the global powerhouse that it is today.

“Play Well” – A 90-Year Legacy

In 2022, Lego will commemorate “90 years of play.” Kjeld Kirk Christiansen, the current owner, is the grandson of the company’s founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen. At the ceremony, Lego Group Chairman Thomas Kirk Christiansen spoke about the firm’s history of play, saying, “When my great-grandfather founded the company 90 years ago, he recognized that play could change the lives of children.” It brings families together and assists youngsters in developing skills that will allow them to realize their greatest potential.”

Despite starting with a small workshop and few resources, Ole Kirk Christiansen had huge dreams, wanting to ensure that as many children as possible might benefit from the amazing benefits of play. Whether in 1932, 2022, or even on Lego’s 100th Anniversary in 2032, the firm remains committed to carrying on Ole’s legacy by assisting families around the world to “play well.”