April 15, 2009
| Posted to:
Associates, Products, Technology
They’re inspired by the esoteric, like the sweep and slope of an iconic building. They’re steered by the practical, like the slump and surge in gas prices.
Predicting what consumers will want down the road, they’re the soothsayers of style — and fortunetellers for the entire company.
They’re the associates who work at Calty Design Research, Toyota’s design studio headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif. And since the studio opened in 1973, they’ve helped design 35 concept and production vehicles, ranging from the 1978 Celica to the 2009 Venza.
Their projects don’t come easy. Calty competes with Toyota’s design studios in Japan and Europe for the privilege of conceiving each vehicle. Then the designers work with engineers to turn visions into vehicles.
How does it all come together? Come inside for a closer look at Calty . . .
Calty President Kevin Hunter (center) and his team begin conceptualizing a vehicle. Working closely with Toyota Motor Sales’ (TMS) Advanced Product Strategy group, designers look two to 10 years into the future, examining everything from customer values to social trends. For example, as commutes and congestion grow, vehicles themselves become destinations. So Venza’s interior resembles a living room, with an outlet and acoustics for an iPod and reclining seats and magazine compartments for passengers.
While some designers still put pen to paper, Project Chief Designer Ian Cartabiano uses graphic design software to polish the Venza’s exterior. His inspiration for the car’s fluid design came from the “excitement of the movement of the surface” of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Images of athletes gave the vehicle its bold stance.
Project Chief Designer Wendy Lee (kneeling) and Senior Creative Designer Hiroko Musha examine color samples in Calty’s courtyard. The samples are curved so designers can see what the colors look like as light hits the surfaces from different angles. Before recommending a color, designers consult with TMS’ Product Planning group about color trends in fashion, home interiors and consumer products as well as the automotive industry.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Supervisor Peter Pang transforms a sketch of the Future Toyota Hybrid Sports (FT-HS) concept into a 3D model. The three-dimensional drawings allow designers to look at the vehicle from every angle, even from the inside out. CAD can shorten the design cycle, lowering product development costs.
The clay sculpting team refines a model of the FT-HS. While the model is mainly hand sculpted, a milling machine also is used. After the modelers make final modifications, the vehicle is painted.
Kevin Hunter introduces the FT-SX concept at the North American International Auto Show in 2005. Favorable response to the concept prompted the decision to produce the Venza. Calty designers then worked closely with engineers at Toyota Technical Center in Michigan. The 2009 Venza went on sale late last year.
By Susan Pack