Many fans know that the term LEGO comes from the Danish ‘leg godt’, which translates to ‘play well’ and was coined by the company’s founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen. However, do you know what the first LEGO logo looked like? Or how long the current one has been in use?
With the LEGO Group celebrating its impressive 90th anniversary this year, Blocks – the LEGO magazine for fans, is taking a look back at how the iconic logo fans know and love has changed over the past nine decades. This is the beginning of a celebration of the LEGO Group’s 90 years, with a very special 90th edition of Blocks magazine coming soon – make sure you are subscribed now, so that you get that commemorative LEGO magazine early.
Although the LEGO company was founded in 1932, it didn’t receive its first product logo until 1936, and it’s about as far from today’s design as possible. It was simply LEGO in black italics with the word fabricated on one side and Billund on the other. This was being used at the time when the company was only producing wooden toys, and the logo was simply stamped onto the bottom, so it needed to be as simple as possible.
This logo was then updated in 1939 into a more three dimensional looking design that incorporated dark red, black and yellow into a compact logo. For the next 10 years this logo would be used as a sticker that would be applied to toys produced by the LEGO company – so the curse of stickers goes back a long way before the brick was even invented!
Things then changed significantly when Ole Kirk Kristiansen released the first LEGO brick products in 1949. These weren’t called LEGO bricks, but rather used the name Automatic Binding Bricks in an art deco inspired font. However, this was only used for a short while because if there’s one thing market researchers can all agree on, it’s that product names need to be short and sweet.
Wanting to establish a wider recognition of the LEGO product, and understanding that an iconic logo was necessary, Ole’s son, Godtfred, invented the next logo in 1951. This featured the block lettering and outlining that is still part of the modern logo. However, it still wasn’t just LEGO and also included the word ‘mursten’ in stylised italics. It literally translated into ‘LEGO bricks’.
During the 1950s the logo then underwent some experimentation, though the block lettering and outlining remained standard. Different colours were used, including red and yellow, and several logos were all used at the same time on different products. With some of the logos being hand-drawn onto boxes, that added even more variation into the mix.
It wasn’t until 1955 that some standardisation finally appeared in the LEGO branding. The logo from this time was given a rounder font, with the letters closely hugging each other and all contained in a red oval. It also featured a dog bone (that’s really what graphic designers call it) behind the lettering, though the LEGO Group have never explained its significance.
Fast forward to 1960 and the logo drops the bone, and the oval becomes a rectangle. It also gets a word addition in the form of System, which would go on to become synonymous with the Town sets released over this period. Knowing that they were onto a winning design, this logo was then trademarked in 1965 and it hasn’t changed much since.
Indeed fans would need to be pretty good at spot-the-difference between the logos of 1973 and current time. As the LEGO Group began production and distribution in the USA, a recognisable worldwide logo was needed and the red, yellow, white and black design of today was settled upon. It had a slight revision (officially called a graphic tightening) in 1998 to make the letters more elongated and neatened up the spacing between the characters, but it has essentially remained the same for more than two decades and is now one of the most iconic toy company logos of all time.