Interview with Young Professionals Application Day winner Alex Rex

Sustainable design in the form of a toy bicycle

Independent designer and artist Alex Rex finds inspiration in the everyday and creates sustainable, handcrafted wooden toys. The toy bicycle fills a gap in a market saturated with toy cars.

In the interview, Alex Rex shares how the idea for a toy bicycle came about, the role sustainability played in it, and how participating in the Young Professionals Application Day has supported his business.

You are a freelance designer and artist. What inspires you?

I am inspired by everyday things, objects, and tools that we use. In my creative work, I always strive to break things down into simple shapes, patterns, and functions. Ideally, this process reveals archetypes. That's what I aim for, although it's quite rare to achieve.

How did you come up with the idea to design a wooden toy?

The idea for the wooden toy bicycle came to me when I was looking for a toy for a friend's child. I noticed that there were so many toy cars for children, but no hand-held toy bicycles for kids aged 1 and up. So, I decided to create a product family myself: the rasant toy bicycle. Since I had previously undergone a craft apprenticeship in an organ-building workshop before my design studies, I was already fond of working with wood. For me, it's the material I prefer to work with and the one in which I can bring ideas to life the quickest.

Unlike most toy providers, you chose to create a bicycle. Why not a toy car?

Well, the reason is that there's already a flood of toy cars on the market. Designing a wooden car is relatively straightforward. You can take almost any shape and attach four wheels – done! But a good toy bicycle for hand play simply didn't exist. A two-wheeler is more complex. Even though it might sound counterintuitive, a toy bicycle must be able to stand on its own, as otherwise, it can lead to a lot of frustration. This is much easier to achieve with a four-wheeled car. Additionally, the frame shape of a bicycle doesn't offer much freedom in terms of design. Here, I simplified it drastically and focused on the ergonomic grip shape. I didn't want to replicate a bicycle model; I wanted to design a toy.

You designed the toy bicycle back in 2015. What happened with the product after that?

I presented the initial design of the toy bicycle in 2015 while I was still in college. After that, not much happened for a while. Once a year, I would take a week to work on improving the product, focusing on refining small details. I asked myself questions like how to manufacture certain parts more effectively and whether I could utilize innovative materials, such as 3D printing with wood filament, to create more complex components like the frame. Alongside this, I showcased the design at trade shows, and in 2019, I was nominated at the Kids Design Week. This encouraged me to launch a crowdfunding campaign in the summer of 2020 and search for a producer for the individual components. In the fall of 2021, I opened the online shop, and the first series of products became available for purchase. Now, I'm working on developing additional variations, including a cargo bicycle and a historical high-wheeler, which are set to be added to the online shop this fall.

The packaging can be transformed into a bicycle shelter, like a bicycle workshop, making it quite sustainable. How important is the aspect of sustainability to you?

Well, sustainability in this product is not just about the materials; it's a fundamental message. It's more of an environmental policy toy. Children are introduced to the idea of sustainable transportation right in their playrooms. It's also about resource conservation. If we all constantly use cars, it consumes significant resources, both directly and indirectly. So, it made sense not only to make the toy bicycle from renewable materials but also to design the packaging in a way that it can fold into a bicycle shed. Reuse and upcycling are directly conveyed through this. It's fantastic, isn't it?

How did participating in the Red Dot Award: Product Design support you as a young entrepreneur?

It's great that young designers like myself are supported here with such a new product. It's something special to exhibit alongside the big players in the product market. At the gala, I was able to make a few contacts. Unfortunately, I have to say that there were hardly any people from my wood industry represented. But the celebration was fantastic, and the exhibition is, of course, wonderfully curated.

“It's great that even products in small quantities from young designers are treated with full respect here. I'm very glad to be a part of it.”

What opportunities does the Young Professionals Application Day offer?

As mentioned earlier, I think the support for young designers is fantastic! It's great that even products in small quantities from young designers are treated with full respect here. I'm very glad to be a part of it.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs looking to apply?

Don't be shy! Write compelling narratives that not only describe your product but also outline its future potential. Best of luck to all of you!

Young Professionals Application Day on 6 December 2023

On the Young Professionals Application Day, young entrepreneurs and designers who graduated no more than five years ago have the opportunity to enter a drawing for 50 free registrations for the Red Dot Award: Product Design. The products of the selected talents will be evaluated by the Red Dot Jury along with those of all participants. In the event of an award, the emerging talents will have access to the comprehensive winner's benefits at no cost. More information here.