Brick Critics

The LEGO logo (1998-Present)

The current Homepage in the U.S.A

LEGO® is a line of toys featuring colourful plastic bricks, gears, minifigures (also called minifigs and figs), and other pieces which can be assembled to create models of almost anything imaginable. Cars, planes, trains, buildings, castles, sculptures, ships, spaceships, and even working robots are just part of a very short list of the many things that can be built with LEGO bricks. High production quality and careful attention to detail ensures that LEGO pieces can fit together in myriad ways, which is one of the main reasons for the toy's success.

The sets are produced by the LEGO Group, a privately-held company based in Denmark.

Brief history

: Main article: History of LEGO. Also see: LEGO Timeline

The LEGO Company had its beginnings in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a poor carpenter from Billund, Denmark. Ole Kirk started creating wooden toys in 1932, but it wasn't until 1949 that the famous plastic LEGO brick was created.

The company name LEGO was coined by Christiansen from the Danish phrase leg godt, meaning "play well". The LEGO Group claims that "LEGO" means "I put together" or "I assemble" in Latin, though this is a rather liberal translation; the more accepted and widely used application of the word is "I read". It should be noted, however, that the original, Greek verb "legein" actually has the meaning "put together".

In 1947, Ole Kirk and his son Godtfred obtained samples of interlocking plastic bricks produced by the company Kiddicraft. These "Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks" were designed and patented in the UK by Mr. Hilary Harry Fisher Page, a child psychologist. A few years later, in 1949, LEGO began producing similar bricks, calling them "Automatic Binding Bricks." These bricks, manufactured from cellulose acetate, were developed in the spirit of traditional wooden blocks that could be stacked upon one another; however, these plastic bricks could be "locked" together. They had several round "studs" on top, and a hollow rectangular bottom. The blocks snapped together, but not so tightly that they couldn't be pulled apart.

The use of plastic for toy manufacture was not highly regarded by retailers and consumers of the time. Many of the LEGO Group's shipments were returned, following poor sales; it was thought that plastic toys could never replace the wooden monkeys.

By 1954, Christiansen's son, Godtfred, had become the junior managing director of the LEGO Group. It was his conversation with an overseas buyer that struck the idea of a toy system. Godtfred saw the immense potential in LEGO bricks to become a system for creative play, but the bricks still had some problems from a technical standpoint: their "locking" ability was limited, and they were not very versatile. It wasn't until 1958 that the modern-day brick design was developed, and it took another five years to find exactly the right material for it.

Over the years many more LEGO sets, series, and pieces were created, with many innovative improvements and additions, culminating in the colorful versatile building toys that we know today.

The LEGO trademark

The LEGO Group's name has become so synonymous with its flagship toy that many use the words "LEGO" (collectively) or "LEGOs" to refer to the bricks themselves, and even to any plastic bricks resembling LEGO bricks, although the LEGO Group discourages this as dilution of their trademark. LEGO catalogs in the 1970s and 1980s contained a note that read:

The word LEGO® is a brand name and is very special to all of us in the LEGO Group Companies. We would sincerely like your help in keeping it special. Please always refer to our bricks as 'LEGO Bricks or Toys' and not 'legos.' By doing so, you will be helping to protect and preserve a brand of which we are very proud and that stands for quality the world over. Thank you! Susan Williams, Consumer Services.

"LEGO" is officially written in all uppercase letters. The company asserts that to protect its brand name, the word LEGO must always be used as an adjective, as in "LEGO set," "LEGO products," "LEGO universe," and so forth. Nevertheless, such corporate admonitions are frequently ignored as corporate intervention in the use of language, and the word lego is commonly used not only as a noun to refer to LEGO bricks but also as a generic term referring to any kind of interlocking toy brick.

Design and manufacture

Since their introduction in 1949, LEGO pieces of all varieties have been, first and foremost, part of a system. LEGO pieces from 1963 still interlock with pieces made today, despite radical changes in shape and design over the years. Retail LEGO sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers.

Bricks, beams, axles, minifigures, and all other elements in the LEGO system are manufactured to an exacting degree of tolerance. When snapped together, pieces must have just the right amount of "clutch power"; they must stay together until pulled apart. They cannot be too easy to pull apart, or the result will be LEGO creations that are unstable; they cannot be too difficult to pull apart, since the disassembly of one creation in order to build another is part of the LEGO appeal. In order for pieces to have just the right "clutch power", LEGO elements are manufactured within a tolerance of 2 micrometers (0.00008 in).

Since 1963, LEGO pieces are manufactured from a strong, resilient plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS. Precision-machined, small-capacity molds are used, and human inspectors meticulously check the output of the molds, to eliminate significant variations in color or thickness. Worn-out molds are encased in the foundations of buildings to prevent their falling into competitors' hands. According to the LEGO Group, its molding processes are so accurate that only 18 bricks out of every million fail to meet its stringent standards. It is thanks to this care in manufacturing that the LEGO Group has maintained such a high degree of quality over the decades; this is one of the main reasons that pieces manufactured over 40 years ago still interlock neatly with pieces manufactured today.

Manufacturing of LEGO bricks occurs at a number of locations around the world. Molding is done at one of two plants in Denmark and Switzerland. Brick decorations and packaging is done at plants in Denmark, Switzerland, United States, South Korea, the Czech Republic and more recently, China. Annual production of LEGO bricks averages approximately 20 billion (2 × 1010) per year, or about 600 pieces per second.

LEGO today

Since it began producing plastic bricks, the LEGO Group has released thousands of play sets themed around Space, robots, Pirate, Vikings, Knight's Kingdom, Dinosaurs, cities, suburbia, holiday locations, Wild West, the Arctic, Ferrari, Trains, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Harry Potter, BIONICLE, and more. Sets containing new pieces are released frequently. In 2006 LEGO announced the procurement of worldwide toy rights with the cable TV channel Nickelodeon for building sets with themes from two hit TV shows, SpongeBob SquarePants and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

There are also motors, gears, lights, sensors, and cameras available to be used with LEGO components. There are even special bricks, like the LEGO Mindstorms#The RCX programmable brick that can be programmed with a PC to perform very complicated and useful tasks. These programmable bricks are sold under the name LEGO Mindstorms.

There are several competitions which use LEGO bricks and the RCX, among other microcontrollers, for robotics. The earliest, and likely the largest, is Botball, a national US middle- and high-school competition stemming from the MIT 6270 LEGO robotics tournament. A related competition is First LEGO League for elementary and middle schools. The international RoboCup Junior autonomous Soccer competition involves extensive use of LEGO Mindstorms equipment which is often pushed to its limits. LEGO Mindstorms provides primary and secondary school aged participants of RoboCup Junior an easy and intuitive introduction to robotics. It also allows advanced participants an opportunity to modify the LEGO Mindstorms platform, adding their own sensors and actuators, as well as other mechanical, electrical, electronic and software related systems. {C LEGO Group operates several LEGOland amusement parks in Europe and California. There are also several LEGO retail stores, including one in Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney area near Orlando, Florida and in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. As of year end 2005, there are 25 LEGO Brand Retail stores in the USA, a number of stores in Europe, and a franchised LEGO store in Abu Dhabi.

Novel applications of LEGO

LEGO bricks today are used for purposes beyond children's play. The LEGO Group itself has developed a form of business consultancy fostering creative thinking, called LEGO Serious Play, in which team members build metaphors of their organisational experiences using LEGO bricks, and work through imaginary scenarios using the visual device of the LEGO constructions and by exploring possibilities in a 'serious' form of 'play'.

A cult following of people who have used LEGO pieces to make sculptures, very large mosaics and complex machines has developed. Some sculptures use hundreds of thousands of pieces and weigh tens of kilograms. Large mosaics, fully functional padlocks and pendulum clocks, a harpsichord and an inkjet printer (built by Google co-founder Larry Page while at the University of Michigan) have been constructed from LEGO pieces. One such masterpiece solves a Rubik's Cube through the use of LEGO motors and cameras, a task that many humans cannot accomplish. Even an eclipse-predicting computer was once built! Photos of many fan creations like these can be seen at Brickshelf and at MOCpages. A group which calls itself "Adult Fan of AFL" (for "Adult Fans of LEGO") is an important demographic for The LEGO Group, which has recently begun reintroducing popular sets from previous years to appeal to this group.

The LEGO system in art

One hobby among enthusiasts is to re-create popular scenes from famous movies, using LEGO bricks for the scenery and LEGO play sets as characters. Such movies are called "LEGO movies", "Brickfilms", or "cinema LEGO". They usually use stop-motion animation. For example, the Monty Python and the Holy Grail Special Edition DVD contained a version of the "Camelot" musical sequence redone with LEGO minifigures and accessories.

Artists have also used LEGO sets with one of the more notorious examples being Polish artist Zbigniew Libera's "LEGO Concentration Camp," a collection of mocked-up concentration camp-themed LEGO sets.[1]

The Little Artists have created an entire Modern Art collection in a LEGO Gallery. 'Art Craziest Nation' was shown at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, UK. [2]

Another notable example is the award-winning music video for the song "Fell in Love with a Girl" by the White Stripes. Director Michel Gondry filmed a live version of the video, digitized the result, and then recreated it entirely with LEGO bricks.

Several webcomics are illustrated with LEGO, notably Irregular Webcomic!.

LEGO itself sells a line of sets named "LEGO Studios," which contains a LEGO web cam (repackaged Logitech USB Quickcam), software to record video on a computer, clear plastic rods which can be used to manipulate minifigures from off-camera, and a Director minifigure.


















* Six eight-stud LEGO bricks of the same colour can be put together in 915,103,765 ways, and just three bricks of the same colour offer 1,560 combinations. The figure of 102,981,500 is often given for six pieces, but it is incorrect. The number 102,981,504 (four more than that figure) is the number of six-piece towers (of a height of six). The number of contiguous configurations for one through seven bricks, counting reflections but not counting rotations are shown in the table on the right.

* The L, E, G and O in LEGO are all capitalized.

: References: The Entropy of LEGO, A LEGO Counting Problem, and OEIS Sequence A112389 in external links.


References, and further reading


* Bedford, Allan. The Unofficial LEGO® Builder's Guide. 2005. ISBN 1-59327-054-2.


* Clague, Kevin, Miguel Agullo, and Lars C. Hassing. LEGO® Software Power Tools, With LDraw, MLCad, and LPub. 2003. ISBN 1-931836-76-0

* Courtney, Tim. Virtual LEGO®: The Official Guide to LDraw Tools for Windows. 2003. ISBN 1-886411-94-8.

* McKee, Jacob H. Getting Started with LEGO® Trains. No Starch Press, 2003. ISBN 1-59327-006-2.


* Ferrari, Mario, Giulio Ferrari, and Ralph Hempel. Building Robots With LEGO® Mindstorms: The Ultimate Tool for Mindstorms Maniacs. 2001. ISBN 1-928994-67-9.


* Kristiansen, Kjeld Kirk, foreword. The Ultimate LEGO® Book. New York: DK Publishing Book, 1999. ISBN 0-7894-4691-X.


* Wiencek, Henry. The World of LEGO® Toys. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1987. ISBN 0-8109-2362-9.

See also

* Category:Sets by item number

* Portal:Themes

* List of themes

* Category:Minifigures

* Video games

* Portal:Collectibles and Merchandise

* History of LEGO

External Links

* Official

** LEGO official website

** LEGO Shop At Home The world's largest LEGO shop

** FIRST LEGO League LEGO robotics competition

* News and community

** LEGOFan A LEGO Portal Web site run by fans, for fans

** Eurobricks Forums a large forum for LEGO fans

** A LEGO Fan Forum

** LUGNET LEGO Users Group Network

** Bricks in my Pocket (BimP) PodCast devoted to the LEGO community

** The Brickish Association British LEGO Fan Association

** ILTCO: International LEGO Train Club Organization

** Bricksinmotion A 'Brick' filming enthusiast site

** LOWLUG LEGO User Group of the Lowlands (Dutch LUG site)

* Database, reference and stores

** BRICKSET Guide to LEGO sets past and present

** Peeron LEGO Set and Part Inventory Database

** Bricklink Buying and selling sets and parts

** The Brictionary, a LEGO Wiki

** BrickWiki Open Content LEGO Encyclopedia

** Wiki-Brick-Links Open directory of links to LEGO sites

** LEGO Building Instructions Official building instructions website

** Minitalia Reference A guide to LEGO Minitalia sets with a brief history

* Creations

** Brickshelf website to post pictures of LEGO creations

** MOC Pages

** Castle-themed LEGO creations

** Space-themed LEGO creations

** From Bricks to Bothans Star Wars-themed LEGO creations

** Town and train creations

** The Brick Apple New York inspired creations

** LEGO mosaics & sculptures

** LEGO sculptures

** Serious LEGO Various machines, including a Rubik's Cube solver

** LEGO Castle Project

** The Brick Testament - The bible illustrated with LEGO creations

** ME Models - Add a Little Realism to your Hobby - Custom Sets

** A fully functional 3 Digit Babbage Difference Engine made from LEGO TECHNIC

* Games

** LEGO Star Wars - The video game

** Online games

** Brikwars Wargames using LEGO elements

* Educational

** LEGO Education Store


* LEGO on PC

** LEGO Digital Designer - by LEGO®

** LDraw - LEGO CAD