Nabii

The designer of the LEGO Minifigure has passed away.

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On Wednesday former Chief Designer at LEGO, and creator of the LEGO Minifigure Jens Nygaard Knudsen passed away.

Jens hired my colleague Niels in the 1970’s and they worked together until Jens retired in 2000.

“It is with great sorrow and dismay that I must announce that an amazing man, the best colleague of many years, an unforgettable friend, the most loving husband, father, father in law and grandfather: Jens Nygaard Knudsen has passed away on 19th February 2020.

Among all those who have worked for, built with, and generally known and loved LEGO over the years Jens should be known and remembered as one of the most important designers ever. He was the man who created the LEGO Minifigure, he was behind all the classic themes: Space, Pirates, Castle, Trains and countless more besides. He was a leader and an inspired builder.

Few have ever had as much imagination and creative power as he and no one who has got to know, or simply met Jens will be able to forget his amazing lovely and positive personality. LEGO fans around the world they should know that perhaps the most important ever creator of the LEGO Universe is no more. Honour his memory. His equal no longer exists.

Jens Nygaard Knudsen, 25 Jan 1942 – 19 Feb 2020.“

Niels Milan Pedersen


I (Mark Stafford) only met Jens twice, on both occasions he stuck me as full of energy and enthusiasm for LEGO and designing toys. For example I took him to take a photograph in the LEGO Idea House and he noticed a classic-space model he had designed 30 years earlier was built wrong and just had to stop, get down on his knees and fix it! Jens was made Chief Designer after the success of the minifigure he designed and led the design team throughout the 1980’s and 90’s.

He designed the LEGO Minifigure, and had a hand in pretty much every LEGO theme between 1968 and 2000, including Classic Space (he designed the entire first wave and most of the later models too), Blacktron, Aquanauts, Ice Planet, all the Classic Castle themes, Trains, Pirates, Adventurers etc. He leaves behind his loving wife, three children, two grandchildren and over eight billion little plastic people infused with childhood imaginations.

Millions upon billions of happy childhood memories are owed to this man. Thank you Jens.

Please leave a comment, all of them will be forwarded to his family.


And, if you would like to do something in his memory: build a LEGO spaceship, he would have loved that. Hashtag it as #NygaardMemorialFleet and lets see what we end up with.

 

Edited by Nabii
typo

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So sorry to hear that. The minifigure revolutionised Lego as a toy.

Those classic themes shaped my imagination as a child and continues to spark my interest until now and forever.

His minifigure design has spread to literally every corner of the globe. His influence is unfathomable.

Rest in peace.

Edited by leafan

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I'm reminded of a quote by The Land Institute co-founder Wes Jackson:

Quote

"If your life's work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you're not thinking big enough."

Jens sparked so many imaginations with his creativity and passion for toy design that even if his most famous invention is an inch and a half tall, it can never be said he didn't think big enough.

The man himself will be missed, but his life's work most certainly lives on in countless builders both now and in the future.

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Well. That explains the lack of success for TLG's classic theme releases post 2000. Lightning in a jar is almost impossibly to capture again.

What a tremendous loss to us all but especially his family. 
I will build something from each Classic theme in his memory.
And of course I have close to a thousand of his plastic children in my family.

God preserve you Jens.
Thank you for my childhood dreams.

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I grew up with those listed Classic themes, while my family didn't have a whole lot of sets of each theme back then, it did make mixing and matching LEGO parts and figures very interesting, the slogan "Just Imagine..." was just perfect.

Also as my family collected LEGO for a longer period, I got to experience the evolution of figures, from Homemaker & 1974 static minifigures , to the 1978 original smiley face and 1989 Pirates onward.

 

Rest In Peace

Edited by TeriXeri

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Thank you, Jens.  Words cannot express how much your work has meant to me.

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Much of what we create with this construction toy is built around that little figure. The inspiration and legacy will live on for a very very long time.

Thank you Jens! :cry_happy:

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Also, here is my contribution to the #NygaardMemorialFleet if anyone wants to see:

Spoiler

 

 

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So sorry to hear about this.  His was a life well lived that changed all our lives for the better, I'd say.  Something like the minifigure does nothing to improve anybody's life in a practical or material way, but sometimes the most important things in life are just a smile and a friendly face - hello, everything is going to be okay.   Sometimes, that little classic Lego man is the only person (so to speak) around to give you that smile and kind word, especially after a bad day at school.  It's really entirely due to the minifigure that we have this rich ecosystem of building and play today, since it's such a brilliant piece of industrial design: just large enough to allow incredible detail, just small enough to be delightfully abstract; just realistic enough to be human without any stretch of the imagination, just abstract enough to be cute and funny and adaptable; large enough to interact with its environment via tools and accessories, small enough to fit into a larger built environment that's still small enough to be practical for play.  And he had such a critical role in so many legendary sets, from the Galaxy Explorer and Yellow Castle to the Black Seas Barracuda and the Pharoah's Forbidden Ruins from Adventurers.  Rest in peace - hope everything is awesome wherever you are!

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The LEGO Minifigure.

A couple of plastic pieces - very, very thoughtfully and carefully designed pieces - put together - come to life. There are some countable individual pieces; legs, arms, torsos, heads, and many, many, almost uncountable "accessories" - which - in their individual smallness - make all the difference. Minifigs are so limited in their way to freely "move" - and at the same time they can express unlimited feelings and actions. Every time I try to let them "do" or "express" or "represent" something - it works. Beautifully.

I did not know that one individual was behind all this until today. "Too many wonderful people pass away these days" was my first reaction - and then I began to think about it - at age 58 passing away seems to come into reach: My father. My father-in-law. My aunts. My uncles. All gone. Just before New Years I learned that my younger sister's clock counts down - relentless. 

There is a room in this house, I call my home office. It is that - there is a printer, two docking stations, my old laptop, and the new one I carry around. Completely irrelevant. In this office there is LEGO all over the place - arranged in a steam punk, real punk, crazy ways - I call freestyle. There is quite a bit. But no single brick, no building, no train, nothing - would mean a thing to me - if there were no minifigs. They give everything I do a "meaning". A reason. An expression. Fun. Craziness. Without them, all would be dead.

Knowing that Jens Knudsen was behind all this - coming alive - makes him - for me personally - being alive. As long as I am alive. In every minifig wink, smile ... and there are some 700 of them doing decent to all the way crazy things in my LEGO world - I from now on see a person that I have never met - the human, who accomplished that magic.

It is with deep sorrow, and at the same time deep gratefulness, to close a door.

And it is with high spirits to look into a minifig face and feel: Thank you, Jens. I do not believe in higher authorities, I believe in life. In my world, it is life that keeps everything alive. For me, Jens is alive - as long as I remember him. More than 700 little LEGO individuals are helping me out on that - every single time I go up there.

Mark, please give my sincere condolences to the family of Jens.

Warmly,
Thorsten              

 

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‘Genius’ is used far too glibly these days. But in Jens Nygaard Knudsen’s case it is truly deserved. His creativity brought happiness to many millions of children and adults, and will likely continue to do so for years to come. How many other people can claim that?

Edited by AmperZand

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Sad to hear, but he will be remembered through his works. How many households are there (at least in the 'west') that don't have a number of minifigures. 

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Very sad to hear this. It's incredible to think that one creation brought so much joy to millions of kids and adults across the world. One of my favourite sets: The Ewok Village is a great set, good design, nice homage to the movie, but it would mean nothing, absolutely nothing if it didn't have any of those minifigures. Rest in Peace 

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I remeber when the floatings boats came out, with the stiffies minifigs - that meant the World to me, as I now had people to play with as well as buildings and vehicles. 

I had LEGO before that, but the figs started my LEGO obsession for real - and of course it only multiplied with the introduction of the actual minifig. 

Jens died of ALS, just like another genius, Stephen Hawkins - it could also be called the Genius Killer Disease. 

 

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It is strange to realize how huge an impact someone has had on your life only after they have passed away. I've been building with LEGO for somewhere the neighborhood of 17 years now, and Jens' little plastic people have been there every step of the way. They've provided endless entertainment, even companionship at times -- I remember taking a little tin full of them along to doctor's visits back in the day, and even today will often snag one off the shelf to take to work or school. Despite all having the same basic body profile, they still manage to convey a massive amount of individuality and personality and make the LEGO hobby immeasurably more interesting. Heck, LEGO probably wouldn't even exist as it does today without Minifigures. Try to picture a theme like Star Wars without them -- it just wouldn't work.

 

Thanks to Jens for his wonderful creation, and my condolences to his family.

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I reckon LEGO should sell a commemorative minifigure of Jens Nygaard Knudsen with proceeds of the sales going to ALS research. I’m not into fleshies, but I’d buy one anyway.

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My love for the minifig has grown over the past few years. Both with the fantastic prints & expressions we’re now getting, but mostly thanks to social media & seeing all the brilliant photos I’ve seen of people bringing them to life. 

I also hold quite the fondness for those Classic themes. When I returned to LEGO, after buying Cafe Corner & Market Street, I ran to eBay & bought nearly all Forestmen & Castle Ninja sets. 

A huge thanks certainly goes out to him for genius. Something so simple as a small figure with a littler articulation. Who knew it could bring such creativity & joy(and some frustrations at tracking down those sought after :grin:) to millions of people. And also help people get through tough times & bad days. 

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Heartbreaking news. Condolences to his family and friends - but let us celebrate what he accomplished in his time.

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Truly the architect of my childhood. Many themes you named are fond favourites that occupied many afternoons and still inspire me today.

The Minifigure is actual design perfection, always and forever iconic and recognised.

My condolences to his family, his legacy will continue to bring joy to so many people.

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2 hours ago, Peppermint_M said:

Truly the architect of my childhood. Many themes you named are fond favourites that occupied many afternoons and still inspire me today.

The Minifigure is actual design perfection, always and forever iconic and recognised.

My condolences to his family, his legacy will continue to bring joy to so many people.

I agree. I think the simplicity of the articulation really make it something special. As do the irregular proportions of it. The new parts, like the different sized legs, make it better. But, it would still be perfect without them. As weird as that sounds. 

Edited by Vindicare

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On 2/22/2020 at 12:12 AM, Nabii said:

On Wednesday former Chief Designer at LEGO, and creator of the LEGO Minifigure Jens Nygaard Knudsen passed away.

He was the man who created the LEGO Minifigure, he was behind all the classic themes: Space, Pirates, Castle, Trains and countless more besides.

Or, in other words, he was the embodiment of Lego itself. It would have been so interesting to have this piece of information thirty years ago, today everything is so easy thanks to the internet, no true effort is required to have so many bts' knowledge.

On 2/22/2020 at 12:12 AM, Nabii said:

He was a leader and an inspired builder.

When the connection between a passion and a job gives an amazing result in terms of personal satisfaction and profits for a company. Probably this is the difference with current Lego executives, cold managers who could't care less about selling Lego sets rather than mortgages .  

On 2/22/2020 at 12:12 AM, Nabii said:

...Honour his memory. His equal no longer exists.

...And, if you would like to do something in his memory: build a LEGO spaceship, he would have loved that. Hashtag it as #NygaardMemorialFleet and lets see what we end up with.

Hopefully Lego will honour his memory too, but then I remember that they didn't even celebrate Space 40th anniversary. Let's wait and see. 

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