If you love cars, I’m just about positive you started life loving toy cars. I’ve yet to meet any gearhead that doesn’t have some toy cars rolling around on their desks or shelves or floors, just waiting to be stepped on, painfully. I unashamedly love toy cars, so I was thrilled to be invited to see Candylab Toys’ design studio, where I could talk toy cars, see toy cars, play with toy cars, and, yes, even design a toy car.
Candylab isn’t a Hot Wheels or Matchbox competitor—they’re a vastly smaller outfit, and they’re focused on building handmade wooden toy cars with a unique minimal aesthetic. The cars they build are sculptural and architectural, incredibly satisfying bits of modern design that are as suitable to be just the right thing to set off your midcentury coffee table or just a fun toy for your kid to play with.
The method by which the people behind Candylab’s look—Vlad and Kaeo—distill the details of a car down to its absolute essentials is really remarkable, and it’s amazing how identifiable their cars are even when so aggressively simplified. It’s getting to the absolute essentials of what car design is about, and I really love what they do.
They make toy cars that are not just visually pleasing, but are physically pleasing as well; with so many toy cars being made from plastic and metal, a wooden toy car is now something unusual. The heft is near ideal, the smooth feel of the painted wood is a tactile treat, and they roll around smoothly and quickly, great to play with.
Even when they get a bit banged around and worn, it just adds to their character—much like a real car.
To learn the process of design, I proposed a new toy they should have, based on the classic Volkswagen Type 2 bus/truck/van/etc. Seeing my crude idea and whiteboard sketch go through the process to become an actual, physical prototype was fascinating, and deeply exciting.
I’m especially pleased with how the pickup truck base and drop-in bus back and canvas-canopy back and the magnet-on camper pop-top work, and seeing how quickly Otto took to it was fantastic. I think this’ll be fun.
This toy might, just might, actually make it into production, which is thrilling for me. Of course I’ll keep you updated, because just try and get me to shut up if they’re going to make a toy based on my idea.