A Taxonomy Of More Than 4,000 LEGO Figures

Using science to classify very important toys
LEGO Mindstorm robot

Kids are so disorganized, throwing their LEGOs in a big tub or scattering them on the floor where they lay dormant, waiting for bare feet to stroll through. Surely there is a better way, children!

There is, apparently. Inspired by the scientific species-naming systems, University of Canterbury professor Christoph Bartneck created this map of themes from the LEGO Minifigures canon, which contains more than 4,000 individual figures. Bartneck explains the specifics, and other ideas for a taxonomic system, here (sics):

1. All figures that do not have a standard torso, such as Duplo and Basic, are part of the category “non standard torso”. REVISION: non-standard refers to the scale of the figure. A Star Wars robot would still fall into this category, but not a Technic or Duple figure.
2. All licensed themes, such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, are part of the category “licensed”
3. Themes that try to mimic realty are part of the non-fictional category
4. Themes that include fantastic elements are part of the fiction category
5. Themes that try to realistically mimic historical periods are part of the “historical” category
6. There is no distinction between “Town” and “City”

Besides categorizing the figures, we also need to have a nomenclature. The Linnaean taxonomy uses the the combination of a genus name and a second term. Of course we should not use Latin terms, as proposed by Linnaeus. We could us acronyms and serial numbers. Here is my proposal:



  • aaa stands for the second last level in the taxonomy, for example stw for Star Wars
  • bbb stands for the last level in the taxonomy, for exampel ep1 for Episode 1
  • yyyy stands for the year in which the figure was produced first, for example 2001
  • sss stands for a three digit serial number with preceedings zeros, for example 007

Impressive attention to detail! Bartneck has also created a catalogue based on the system, and features an interactive map here.

[via Improbable Research]