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LEGO history timeline

Find out about the major milestones in the history of LEGO with our free, downloadable timeline template

Jan 25, 2018

17 min read

Last updated: February 23, 2024

Hooked on LEGO? You’re not alone. Children and adults worldwide have been playing with LEGO sets for decades, and the famous toy bricks are still as craved as they’ve always been. And just as feisty as ever despite their ripe age, as you may notice when accidentally stepping on one.

But have you ever wondered how it all started? Whence came these magic bricks that have ignited creativity and captured the hearts of generations? What would a LEGO history timeline look like?

The LEGO brick hasn’t changed in appearance from the day its well-known design was patented, on January 28, 1958, but it’s certainly come a long way, steadily turning the LEGO Group into one of the biggest toymakers in the world. Let’s take a look back at how one of the world’s most beloved toys has evolved, from its humble beginnings to its global acclaim.

LEGO timeline: a visual history

Lego history timeline

This LEGO timeline illustrates major milestones and achievements in the history of the company, including the year founder Ole Kirk Christiansen started manufacturing toys, the day the modern stud-and-tube design was patented, or the introduction of the minifigure.

In 1916, carpenter Ole Christiansen bought a woodworking shop in Billund, Denmark, where he manufactured stepladders and furniture. Faced with a lack of carpentry jobs because of the Great Depression, Ole soon started to produce miniature models of his products, which inspired him to create toys, thinking they were less expensive and could actually sell. Soon, he renamed his company as LEGO, and the rest is history.

A history we are about to unveil bit by bit.

LEGO history timeline: key milestones

  • 1916: Ole Kirk Christiansen buys small woodworking shop
  • 1932: Starts manufacturing toys
  • 1936: Company name changed to LEGO
  • 1947: Company begins manufacturing plastic toys
  • 1949: Produces first Automatic Binding Bricks
  • 1954: First LEGO windows and doors
  • 1958: LEGO patents the brick design we know today
  • 1958: 140 employees
  • 1961: The LEGO wheel is invented
  • 1966: First LEGO train system
  • 1968: The Legoland park opens
  • 1969: The Duplo system
  • 1970: 1,000 employees
  • 1974: The first official LEGO newsletter
  • 1977: LEGO Technic is launched
  • 1978: Introduces the minifigure
  • 1979: Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen – CEO of the LEGO Group
  • 1980: Establishes the Educational Products Department
  • 1985: 5,000 employees
  • 1986: LEGO Technic Control
  • 1992: The world’s largest LEGO Castle is built
  • 1996: Legoland Windsor is opened
  • 1997: Launches its first PC game, LEGO Island
  • 1998: LEGO releases Mindstorms
  • 1999: LEGO Star Wars is introduced
  • 2000: The LEGO brick named “Toy of the Century”
  • 2005: Sells Legoland parks to Merlin Entertainments Group.
  • 2007: Thomas Kirk Kristiansen joins the Board of Directors
  • 2008: Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame
  • 2008: LEGO Indiana Jones is released
  • 2012: LEGO Lord of the Rings is released
  • 2014: The LEGO Movie
  • 2017: The LEGO Batman Movie
  • 2017: Niels B. Christiansen – CEO of the Lego Group
  • 2019: The premiere of The Lego Movie 2
  • 2020: LEGO Dots and LEGO Braille Bricks
  • 2022: 24,000 employees
  • 2022: 90 years of LEGO

LEGO history detailed milestones

Let’s look deeper into every milestone along the LEGO timeline to find out bits and pieces of how LEGO became the world’s most loved toy.

1916: Ole Kirk Christiansen buys small woodworking shop

Ole Kirk Christiansen, the Danish carpenter who founded LEGO, settled in Billund in 1916 and bought a carpentry shop.

1932: Starts manufacturing toys

The great depression in the 1930s had caused huge drops in housing and furniture sales. The shop began manufacturing wooden toys, such as cars, airplanes and yoyos. This is the beginning of the LEGO Group.

1936: Company name changed to LEGO

The company’s name officially becomes “LEGO”, derived from the Danish expression “LEg GOdt”, which translates to “play well.” Ole thought of this name to reflect the company’s core philosophy of encouraging imaginative play and creativity among children.

1947: Company begins manufacturing plastic toys

Ole Kirk Christiansen buys the first plastic molding machine in Denmark. The LEGO company’s plastic toy production begins. Christiansen drew inspiration from prototypes of the “Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Brick,” an invention patented by the British toy maker and inventor Hilary Fisher Page.

1949: Produces first Automatic Binding Bricks

In 1949, LEGO produces the first plastic bricks and launches the first building set, Automatic Binding Bricks.

1954: First LEGO windows and doors

After Godtfred Kirk Christiansen becomes Junior Managing Director, LEGO bricks become a building system and the first LEGO windows and doors are introduced.

1958: LEGO patents the brick design we know today

The company patented the iconic LEGO brick design on January 28 1958. LEGO bricks were not the first toys or the only toys the company created but they were and still are one of the most popular toys worldwide.

1958: 140 employees

With a staff of 140 workers, LEGO’s rise shows that the company is becoming a major player in toy manufacturing. Its extended operations state quantified its increasing reach.

1961: The LEGO wheel is invented

Late in the 1950s, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen tried to lend some dynamism to the LEGO brick. That was the beginning of Development Department’s LEGO Wheel experiment. Knud Møller Kristensen developed his own design and later, in 1962, Christiansen approves it. This is an important step, as the LEGO System in Play now integrates movement.

1966: First LEGO train system

To every children’s delight, the introduction of the very first LEGO train system opened up whole new ways of play. It encouraged kids everywhere to explore one branch of transportation or engineering after another, and also to produce imaginative worlds from their models.

1968, June 7: The LEGOLAND Park opens

On June 7, 1968, the LEGO Group opened LEGOLAND Billund in its homeland of Denmark. Now families could have a day out playing with LEGO bricks. In fact, the park was born as a natural result of circumstances: more people were making their way to the company’s showroom and factories than this small town with limited capacity for development could handle. In its inaugural year, LEGOLAND welcomed twice the anticipated number of guests – thus far exceeding the expectations of the company’s owners.

1969: The Duplo system

Duplo was launched in 1969 with larger pieces and rounded edges to make it safer and easier for small children to play with LEGO bricks. In the 1960s, massive Duplo blocks debuted, enlarged tremendously to maintain tiny tots risk-free. Despite being significantly more substantial than common LEGO pieces, Duplo bricks interconnected flawlessly with LEGO bricks. This enabled youngsters to effortlessly transition between amusing with oversized Duplo for creative escapades to crafting with standard LEGO as their abilities expanded, maintaining amusement and imaginative plays alive throughout.

1970: 1,000 employees

By 1970, LEGO had grown so big that they now had 1,000 people working for them, with a capacity to produce large numbers of LEGO toys for children all over the world.

1974: The first official LEGO newsletter

In 1974 LEGO began sending out a special newsletter to share news and updates with their LEGO fans.

1977: LEGO Technic is launched

LEGO Technic came out in 1977, offering older children more sophisticated LEGO sets to build, including gears and motors for cool moving parts.

1978: Introduces the minifigure

The little LEGO people, called minifigures, were introduced in 1978, allowing children to add characters to their LEGO play.

1979: Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen – CEO of the LEGO Group

In 1979, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen becomes CEO of the LEGO Group. He is one of Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s grandchildren and the first in the family to hold a business degree. He brings new ideas and energy into the company.

1980: The Educational Products Department

In 1980, LEGO began making toys for schools, so that kids could learn through their interaction with LEGO bricks and have fun at the same time. The Educational Products Department is established.

1985: 5,000 employees

By 1985, LEGO had expanded significantly, boasting a workforce of 5,000 employees worldwide, with around 3,000 only in Billund.

1986: LEGO Technic Control

In 1986, LEGO introduced the concept of learning through play to classrooms across America in the form of “LEGO Technic Control”. This groundbreaking creation allowed builders to construct automated structures and then program their behaviors using a computer interface. However, the system demanded a technical proficiency that placed it beyond the immediate grasp of many students, requiring additional instruction to be able to play. This marks LEGO’s entry into the digital era.

1992: The world’s largest LEGO Castle is built

A milestone in LEGO history, the construction of the world’s largest LEGO Castle shows the amazing creative possibilities of the LEGO bricks.

1996: Legoland Windsor is opened

Legoland Windsor was officially opened to the public on 17 March 1996. This event marked a significant milestone in LEGO’s history, drawing in over 1.4 million visitors during its inaugural season.

1997: Launches its first PC game, LEGO Island

In 1997 LEGO made its first plunge into the digital world and the interactive entertainment with LEGO Island, a PC game. The professional sound and navigation prompts signaled that this path was to be fruitful indeed. While not the first LEGO video game, LEGO Island was arguably the most impactful. Released in September 1997, it received lots of positive reviews. This open-world LEGO game went on to become a bestseller for two consecutive years and significantly contributed to shaping the appearance of digital LEGO bricks and the approach to digital play with these beloved toys.

1998: LEGO releases Mindstorms

In 1998, LEGO launched the LEGO Mindstorms, a revolutionary combination of robotics with LEGO bricks. Children and enthusiasts could explore the realms of engineering and programming. Four sets of Mindstorms products were released. The largest of Mindstorm set was 9719 Robotics Invention System with 733 pieces.

1999: LEGO Star Wars is introduced

LEGO Star Wars was first introduced to the public in 1999 at the International Toy Fair in New York.  The very first set LEGO Star Wars was the X-Wing Fighter. Inspired by the original 1977 Star Wars movie, this set marked the beginning of a long-term partnership between LEGO and Lucasfilm. This iconic collaboration between LEGO and Star Wars introduced a new form of imaginative play that delights fans of all ages to this day.

2000: The LEGO brick, named “Toy of the Century”

In 2000, the British Association of Toy Retailers (BATR) chose Lego as the winner of the BATR Toy of the Century awards. This honor confirmed and enhanced the legacy of the LEGO brick. LEGO broke through other competitors like the Teddy bear, Action Man and Barbie. From its origins as interlocking plastic building blocks to bricks with implanted microchips and to theme parks, LEGO was acknowledged for the major role it has played over the past century in children’s play.

2005: Sells LEGOLAND parks to Merlin Entertainments Group

LEGO was faced with financial difficulties, and in July 2005 it decided to sell its theme park business for about £250 million to Merlin Entertainments. At that time then-Chief Executive Officer Jørgen Vig Knudstorp said that this move temporarily relieved some of the company’s debts and allowed it to continue doing business. By returning to what it does best – LEGO bricks – the company was narrowly averted from bankruptcy.

2007: Thomas Kirk Kristiansen joins the Board of Directors

Thomas Kristiansen, one of the children of Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, has held various positions at the LEGO Group since first joining their Board of Directors in 2007. He played the most active role in steering the company alongside his father, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. Gradually taking on greater responsibility, by 2016 Thomas had risen to Deputy Chairman of the iconic toy brand. His leadership abilities were further recognized four years later (2020) when he accepted the role of Chairman of the Board, cementing his involvement at the highest level of the LEGO Group.

2008: Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame

In 2008, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, USA. This recognition is motivated by the fact that LEGO revolutionized the way children play and build with bricks.

Established in 1984, the Toy Hall of Fame recognizes those who have made exceptional contributions to the toy industry. Among other notable inductees was Ole Kirk Christiansen, Kjeld’s grandfather and founder of the LEGO company, who received this honor in 1989 for conceiving the iconic LEGO brick that has captured the imaginations of children for generations.

2008: LEGO Indiana Jones is released

LEGO Indiana Jones in 2008 was an innovation to LEGO catalogues also proving the company’s skill in turning popular stories into games. The release showed LEGO’s genius for bringing famous characters and thrilling narratives to life in plastic form, consolidating its reputation as the first choice for fans of any age.

2012: LEGO Lord of the Rings is released

Continuing from the success of earlier licensed themes, LEGO surpassed itself with LEGO Lord of the Rings. LEGO Lord of the Rings was launched in 2012 captivating audiences of all ages with its faithful adaptation of the epic fantasy saga into the LEGO universe. Thus, LEGO uncovered yet another aspect of the company’s versatility in storytelling and innovation.

2014: The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie premiers in 2014, stepping LEGO into the world of feature-length animated films. Not only did it win critical acclaim and considerable box office success, but it uplifted LEGO from being simply a toy brand to an international cultural phenomenon. The LEGO Movie is an animated adventure comedy film co-produced by multiple production companies. It premiered in Los Angeles on February 1st, 2014 and was a critical and commercial success, receiving acclaim for its animation, story, humor, score, and voice acting. The song “Everything is Awesome” from its soundtrack was an absolute hit.

2017: The LEGO Batman Movie

The LEGO Batman Movie continued LEGO’s cinematic triumphs, captivating audiences with its witty humor and dynamic storytelling. The movie premiered in Dublin, Ireland on January 29, 2017. It was acclaimed by critics for its animation, voice acting, and humor, making it the first animated Batman movie since “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993) to have a full theatrical release. The movie combines humor, heart, and action, earning positive reviews and accolades, including the Truly Moving Picture Award and Best Picture from the Online Film Critics Society. It was hailed as a refreshing take on the DC superhero genre, praised for its entertainment value and regarded as the best Batman movie since “The Dark Knight”. It also won various other awards, including the Producers Guild Awards for Best Picture.

2017: Niels B. Christiansen – CEO of the Lego Group

Niels B. Christiansen is appointed as Chief Executive Officer and President of the LEGO Group, having joined in October of 2017. As the head of the company, Niels oversees the strategic direction and daily operations of the executive leadership team. Under Niels Christiansen’s leadership, the company has opened more stores around the world, introduced eco-friendly LEGO pieces, created new ways to play with LEGO using technology, and stayed a popular brand worldwide.

2019: The premiere of The LEGO Movie 2

The LEGO Movie 2 premiered in Los Angeles on February 2, 2019, with favorable reviews. The movie was a sequel to the 2014 film The LEGO Movie and the fourth component in The LEGO Movie franchise.

2020: LEGO Dots and LEGO Braille Bricks

In 2020, LEGO introduces a new arts and craft play theme, LEGO Dots. Also, the company launches LEGO Braille Bricks to help children with vision impairment learn critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration through play.

2022: 24,000 employees

LEGO employs around 24,000 staff worldwide and operates almost 900 LEGO-branded shops worldwide, with its fastest-growing market in China.

2022: 90 years of LEGO

The LEGO Group celebrates its 90th Anniversary with its first World Play Day. On August 10, 2022, the LEGO Group launches its biggest global advertising campaign. The campaign encourages fans to prioritize play for nine weeks in the company’s first ever full takeover of, social media, e-commerce channels, stores and LEGOLAND parks. This includes activities such as turning LEGO stores into playgrounds, celebrating the role of play in the lives of world-renowned creatives, inspiring families with exciting building challenges, and collaborating with entertainment, art, design, music, fashion, sports and gaming partners to create playful spaces and experiences for communities around the world.

The campaign is aimed to reinforce the importance of play in children’s growth and development, substantiated with the LEGO Play Well 2022 study that found that play helps children develop lifelong skills and makes the whole family happier. As part of its celebration, LEGO also releases an exclusive set of bricks for the Anniversary, LEGO Classic 90 Years of Play.

Frequently asked questions about LEGO

Want to find out more about the world of LEGO? Check out our answers to questions that fans around the world are asking about the world’s beloved building toy:

About the LEGO history timeline

You can download the LEGO timeline for free and use it as you need. This LEGO chronology was created using Office Timeline, a user-friendly add-in that integrates with PowerPoint and enables you to create with just a few clicks visually appealing timelines, Gantt charts, and more. To edit the LEGO timeline or quickly make new timelines from templates, download the trial version of Office Timeline for free and enjoy the full package for 14 days, no strings attached.

Eddy is Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer for Office Timeline, building a user-friendly but powerful app that makes timelines, Gantt charts and roadmaps directly in PowerPoint.

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