American Designer Pushing Toyota Styling Towards New Horizons

If you look at a modern-day Toyota model such as the C-HR crossover or the all-new Camry, you might just notice that the Japanese automaker has stopped playing it safe with its designs.

Responsible in part for this development is 43-year old American designer Ian Cartabiano, a studio chief designer at Toyota’s Calty Design Research Inc.

Since Akio Toyoda made it clear that there will be “no more boring cars”, Cartabiano, using some proper California flair, helped design the likes of the C-HR, new Camry, FT-4X Concept and even the all-new Supra, which will be unveiled this fall.

“The era of boring cars, of bland cars and anonymous design is over,” said Cartabiano at Toyota’s global headquarters. “It’s what Akio expects. When the president says something like that, it really allows designers to feel creative freedom.”

This massive shift in aesthetics is also getting noticed by the likes of John Manoogian, reports Autonews, a professor of transportation design at the College for Creative Studies, as well as a former GM designer.

“It’s so difficult to get a large corporation to understand the importance of design as a strategic tool and a product differentiator. Apple understands this. Mr Toyoda understands it as well and has unleashed Toyota’s designers to be as creative as possible,” said Manoogian.

When it comes to the C-HR, looking at its rear quarter-panel is enough to make Cartabiano acknowledge the car has a “crazy-ass shape”. He also thinks that the side panel of the C-HR “would look really cool hung on the wall as a piece of art.”

As for the Camry, it really stands out thanks to its C-pillar design, which allows the rear window to curl around the sides of the car.

“In the beginning, it was like, ‘Oh that would be cool, but they’ll never make anything like this. But then, engineering’s getting excited and we’re figuring out ways to do it.” Details like the door handle took four months to design, said Cartabiano, who made the initial 2-inch sketch of the new Camry on the edges of his calendar journal.

“I respect something that’s new but not perfect, rather than something that’s beautiful but nondescript,” added the designer. “I’d rather be challenged than made comfortable. Polarizing is OK.”


  • Six_Tymes

    except for the C-HR, everything else looks very good.

    • Kenneth

      And even the C-HR would look more acceptable / less objectionable if given a horsepower boost to match its crazy exterior (yeah, that might take a lot of horsepower).

    • alexxx

      C-HR looks fabulous…. Maybe you are too conservative

  • Bob

    … as we wait for Honda to also get the memo…

  • nellydesign

    Just saw a new Camry on the road. Was surprised that overall it actually looked pretty great. The details are still a bit unsettling, but the stance and proportion are spot on. No longer looks like a snorefest economy sedan. Looks long, low, and wide.

  • ErnieB

    Nah.. Toyota has gone from boring to just ugly.. but some people like ugly..the Camry, while looking a bit sportier, is not the prettiest car to look at..

    • no25

      Disagree. The Camry is quite an improvement. You want to talk about cars that aren’t pretty to look at: look at the new Sonata (bland, boring) and maybe even the new Accord.

      • KidRed

        The new Sonata is boring, the new Accord is bad but so is the new Camry. It’s just too much in too many places that it doesn’t come together at all.

  • Bash

    Late!!, but still…

  • dumblikeyou2

    “Cartabiano acknowledge the car has a “crazy-ass shape”. ”

    Crazy ass shape that Nissan and KIA have been doing for the better part of a full decade already.

    • TheBelltower

      For the better part of a decade Nissan and Kia have been doing it better than this. Toyota designs have gone from boring and conventional to boring and desperate.

  • Nordschleife

    I like the new Camry. Saw one on the streets and it looked good. I like the CH-R too.

    • Tumbi Mtika

      That John Cena ad was cringe though.

  • Nihar

    If they want to be quirky with their designs, they need help from Citroën.

  • Tumbi Mtika

    Now I know who to blame if the new Supra doesn’t look good.

  • ediotsavant

    One big mistake on the C-HR is the sloping hatch. They should have made it more vertical.

  • gary4205

    I’m agnostic about the exterior, but the interior of the Camry is sexy. The dash is beautiful.

  • Gerald Michael

    Pushing styling towards new horizons? More like pushing style off a cliff.

  • Subi-Rubicon1

    Toyota’s new design language screams “I’m trying super hard” but not in a good way, unfortunately. As many have pointed out already, they will sell simply because it’s a Toyota and the average consumer is blind to any kind of design elements, all they see is an appliance.

  • Enter Ranting

    In the meantime, Mazda is able to produce a refined, elegant and cohesive lineup. Toyota’s styling is a desperate train wreck.

  • KidRed

    They aren’t boring but they aren’t appealing either. The new Camry is really bad and a perfect example. It’s over done. It’s overly styled in ways that different sections of the body don’t visually communicate well with others. There’s no smooth slow around the car. The CH-R is the same but not as bad. The Supra just looks awkward and is too much for your eyes to follow, it offers no rest or end point. All of their new designs are just eye strains.

  • Auto

    The back of new camry is stellar, but the front is a bit much. The CH-R is downright hideous, however the Supra/ FT-1 looks great.

    • Tumbi Mtika

      1 of those cars hasn’t debuted yet. As for the Camry, I agree wholeheartedly. I saw one on the road, and it looked downright sexy, not even mincing words, then we pass it, and I see the front, and get so damn disappointed. THIS was almost perfect! But Toyota tried too hard, and screwed it up! And that brings me back to point 1: The FT1 was gorgeous. But it looks like Toyota tried to change too much. And I cant help but feel it will be worse off for the change, many I feel will be totally unnecessary.


  • Cobrajet

    They are just copying Kia.

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