Logos in Lego Town

A quick study

I love the list of 'fictional universes' on Wikipedia. It contains everything from The Simpsons to Star Trek to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Fictional Universes database on Freebase is even better, as it contains thousands of details about the universes, such as species, objects, and even ethnicities.

However, one universe neither site coves is Lego. Okay, so the Lego Universe isn't exactly as well documented as Springfield or Middle Earth, given that most of narrative is down to your own imagination. However, the Lego sets themselves give hints as to the type of world inhabited by minifigs. Although actually, that should really be 'worlds', as Lego sets come in 'themes', and it's not clear whether the pirates exist in the same universe as the Power Miners gang, although I don't see why they couldn't.

Anyway, I thought I'd start to address this lack of understanding about the Lego Universe with a look at some of the companies and organisations that serve the Lego urban-dwelling minifigs. These mostly occur in the sets that have been variously titled 'Lego Town', 'Lego City' or 'Lego World City' (I'm not sure whether this means there are multiple urban areas, or just one ever-growing one).

We'll start with the law-enforcement service, the police department. Like many universes, it seems Lego isn't without its criminal fraternity, and so the police play a vital role. They've been through a few different re-brands over the years, with the logo starting out fairly simple, then getting a red underline and an italicisation (for added emphasis). Then, with the advent of the Jack Stone era (named after a super-tough policeman, who inspired a generation), the logo got another re-working, featuring a word mark in a Blade Runner style font with a white upper strike-through.

The fire service, by contrast, has retained a much more unified identity, with a logo consisting of three flames elegantly arranged in a fan. Simple, concise, universal.

The ambulance and hospital service initially used the Red Cross logo, however in more recent history, the hospitals and ambulances have adopted a fetching logo featuring a white Rod of Asclepius on a blue six-pointed star. The logo is, in fact, remarkably similar to the Star of Life symbol used by some emergency medical services here in this Universe. Whether Lego copied Earth or Earth copied Lego is unknown, although it should be said that the similarities will come in handy for parallel-universe jumping time-travellers in need of medical assistance.

Onto the transportation services. These are also very important in Lego Town. In fact, I think the minifigs may spend more time travelling than they do staying put. Perhaps this is partly down to having such a reliable and comprehensive train service.

There has only ever been one train company logo, so there's either a monopoly or else the railways are nationalised. The insignia has stood the test of time, and manages to cram a lot of symbolism into a logo small enough to be printed on train doors, liveries and even staff uniforms. It consists of a horizontal line with an arrow head at either line, and a circle with a dot inside it in the middle. The circle represents a train station, the line represents the track, and the arrows the two directions of travel. The design is similar to that of the Swiss Federal Railways, although I think it works even better. There's an interesting contrast between these logos and that of British Rail (now National Rail), which features two parallel horizontal bars, said to represent 'double track', with the arrows on each track showing that trains travel on the left, like on British roads. If you follow this logic through to Lego (and the Swiss Railway), perhaps their logos show that the railways mostly run on single track?

Unlike the railways, there have been a multitude of different airline logos in Lego land - indicating a de-regulated market and open competition. The oldest airline's logo depicts a plane taking off, on a background of rainbow-coloured stripes perhaps representing a sunset. Another airline's tail logo features the word "Air Line" in a simple san-serif font, separated by a simple globe icon, with a red strike-through line to join the letters together. It's a pretty simple, unsophisticated logo, suggestive of a budget airline.

The final logo is from the Lego Universe's premier airline, which has a fleet of modern jet engine passenger planes. The elegant logo is in the form of a stylised bird in mid-flight, with wings swept out behind it. The airline uses the trademark as part of a sophisticated branding effort, with the logo applied to the tail fins and nose cones of aircraft, big enough so that they be spotted from the ground.

Finally, there's a company that has long had a big, dominant presence within the Lego Universe. The company's name? Octan. It's extensive operations includes train freight wagons, and road tankers. It sponsors race tracks and has retail outlets. What does it deal in? Why, petrochemicals of course. Given that oil-derived plastic is the main construction material of the Lego Universe (as well as powering its cars and aircraft), perhaps the size of this company in unsurprising.

Octan's company colours have always been red and green, and is has consistently employed a logo in the shape of two teardrops curved to form a oval. This form is apparently called a Tàijítú, and in our Universe is most commonly seen in the Yin and Yang symbol, as well as the flag of South Korea. What relation it has to gasoline, I have no idea. The name 'Octan', however, clearly derives from the chemical formula Octane, or perhaps the Octane rating measurement system.

Incidentally, there are signs that Octan is diversifying away from petrochemicals, with a move into clean energy, including wind turbines. Perhaps the Lego Universe is currently suffering from the same global warming problems as our own?

Thus concludes my round-up of the main organisations within Lego Town. I've missed a few more minor companies. If there's interest, I may write these up in a future article.

Note: I've tried to research this article as thoroughly as possible, but I'm sure I've missed some things. If so, please let me know, and I'll gladly update the article.