Jens Nygaard Knudsen, the inventor of LEGO’s iconic minifigures, has died at the age of 78.
Nygaard Knudsen worked on creating the Danish toymaker’s popular mini characters – a design that has gone on to achieve global recognition and fandom – back in the 1970s, before the toy was launched in 1978.
The designer had been suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as motor neurone disease (MND), and was being cared for in a hospice when he passed away on February 19th.
He had spent over 30 years with LEGO, working for the Danish company from 1968 to 2000. Over the course of his career, he developed some of LEGO’s classic sets including Space and Pirates, and played a part in designing early versions of the theme park, LEGOLAND.
Niels Milan Pedersen, a colleague and LEGO designer, has paid tribute to the designer.
“His imagination was so fantastic. If we had a brainstorm it was more like a brain hurricane, because he had so many ideas.”
The LEGO Group issued a statement, saying: “We’re very sad to hear that Jens Nygaard Knudsen, the creator of the LEGO Minifigure, has passed away.
“Thank you Jens for your ideas, imagination, and inspiring generations of builders.”
In an additional statement, Julia Goldin, Lego Group’s chief marketing officer, added: “He was a true visionary whose ideas brought joy and inspiration to millions of builders around the world and we thank him for helping to create some of our most loved play themes.”
Matthew Ashton, vice president of design at Lego and producer of the Lego movies, also commented on the designer’s passing and thanked him for inspiring generations of children.
“While I never met Jens, what he created played such a huge part of my childhood as well as for many other millions of kids around the world,” Ashton wrote on Twitter.
“Without him, I would never have been inspired to do the things I do today, without him I wouldn’t even have my job today! What an amazing man, and what an incredible legacy he leaves behind.”