Ole Kirk Christiansen was a carpenter trying to make a living in the farming village of Denmark. When the depression hit his construction orders dwindled to nothing and he began to make small wooden toys to survive. Soon these wooden toys became the focus of his business and in 1934 he renamed his “company” Lego. After the war he invested in a plastic injection molding machine – the first in Denmark. By 1949 he was manufacturing a variety of plastic toys including a building block named the Automatic Binding Brick.
By this time his Ole’s son, Godtfred was helping with the management of the family enterprise. Unlike his father, who was happy to wrap his wooden toys in brown craft paper, Godtfred believed in the idea of proper packaging and promotion. The Automatic Binding Bricks were among the first to receive a 4-color illustrated box
Of course Godtfred still had no concept of brand identity so every early box was a one-off design exercise. The Automatic Binding Bricks didn’t sell particularly well, but Ole and Godtfred stuck with the idea. In 1952 they came up with a shorter, more descriptive name – Lego Mursten.
1955 Godtfred organized all of the Lego Mursten sets around a single, common theme – the Town Plan. He called it the System i Leg (System of Play) and with this System came new boxes.
Lego had been sold as basic or gift sets small supplementary sets, but the new town plan introduced the concept of specific model sets. Over the next two years Lego released several architectural sets that were packaged in what many consider be the most beautiful of all Lego boxes.
In 1959 Helge Torpe was employed by Godtfred as the marketing director and they opened a photography department. It was Helge who became responsible for the increasingly sophisticated graphics and displays, as well as a much more comprehensive approach to marketing. In 1960 he completely revamped the promotional materials for the company. The cartoon-like LEGO Mascot, dating back to 1954, was replaced by a new robot-like mascot made, appropriately, from LEGO Bricks. The mascots were used in all of LEGO marketing including boxes, idea books and advertisements
These new boxes, which featured a series of professionally shot images using actual models, were intended to be used in all of their European markets. It was the company’s first attempt to create a unified graphic approach to their marketing and advertising. By the 1970s Lego was sold in Europe, North and South America and Japan. The beautiful 1973 box and logo redesign, clearly Swiss influenced, was the first attempt at a true international standard: