Toy creator Jens Nygaard Knudsen, who’s best known for designing the iconic Lego mini-figurine, died last week after battling the nerve cell disease ALS.
The designer, 78, worked for Lego from 1968 to 2000, according to AFP. The publication said he died last Wednesday while in hospice care in a small town on the Danish west coast.
The toy company confirmed Knudsen’s passing in a statement to USA TODAY, extending its deepest sympathies to his family.
“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,” said Lego Group’s chief marketing officer Julia Goldin in a statement. She added that Knudsen “made an impact few can match.”
Knudsen was the mastermind behind the yellow Lego person with interchangeable limbs. The racially ambiguous figurine is often referred to as “Lego Man.” Knudsen also had a hand in designing early versions of Legoland and other buildable sets like Lego Castle and Lego Space.
On Friday, Matthew Ashton, vice president of design at Lego, expressed his condolences on Twitter, calling the toy creator “an amazing man.”
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“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 tweeted. “Without him, I would have never 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.”
The Lego Group was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. The company’s name is an abbreviation of the two Danis words “leg godt” which means “play well.” Over the years, the toymaker has branched over into movies, coding and creating sustainable offerings derived from sugar cane.
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