CALTY Design Research: 50 Years of Design Excellence

CALTY Design Research 50 Years of Design

A Look at the Evolution and Impact of Toyota’s Premier Design Studio

In the world of automotive design, few names carry as much weight as CALTY Design Research. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, CALTY has established itself as a premier center of creativity and innovation for Toyota and Lexus. From its humble beginnings in an abandoned coffee shop in California to its current status as a global design powerhouse, CALTY has left an indelible mark on the automotive industry. This article delves into the rich history of CALTY Design Research, highlighting its major milestones and the impact it has had on automotive design.

1970s – First to California

In 1973, CALTY Design Research opened its doors in El Segundo, California, becoming the first original equipment manufacturer to establish a design studio in Southern California. With a staff of just 10, CALTY started by researching future market trends. However, in 1978, CALTY made its mark with the debut of the second-generation Toyota Celica, a sophisticated muscle car that won the Motor Trend Import Car of the Year award. The following year, CALTY showcased its visionary approach with the CX-80, a compact city car designed to respond to changing perceptions of automobiles.

1980s – Experimentation and Innovation

The 1980s marked a new era of experimentation and innovation for CALTY. The studio embraced a more creative and research-focused approach, exploring innovative design language and techniques. CALTY’s Laguna Beach satellite studio furthered this artistic influence, incorporating traditional art techniques into automotive design. Notably, the design team experimented with small-scale ceramic-clay 3D models for the fifth-generation Celica, showcasing their commitment to pushing boundaries.

1990s – Expanding and Evolving

As Toyota looked to CALTY for greater contributions to production vehicle designs, the 90s saw the expansion and renovation of the California site. CALTY’s role in North American design became more significant, and its innovative proposal for a future concept car won the competition, resulting in the creation of the groundbreaking Toyota Prius. The studio celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1998, solidifying its place as a leading force in automotive design.

2000s – More Localization and Autonomy

The 2000s brought a shift towards more localized North American production design with the unveiling of CALTY’s Ann Arbor location. The studio’s designs began to bridge the gap between concepts and production vehicles, with notable examples like the rugged off-road concept turned production car, the 2003 FJ Cruiser. CALTY also ventured into the world of racing design, collaborating with Toyota Racing Development (TRD) to transform the Camry into a NASCAR racing vehicle.

2010s – A New Era of Excitement

The 2010s marked a period of reinvigoration for the Lexus brand, with CALTY playing a significant role in shaping its identity. The stunning Lexus LF-LC Concept, which evolved into the Lexus LC 500, showcased CALTY’s ability to capture the essence of a brand. The iconic Supra also made its return, with the FT-1 Concept capturing the imagination of Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, and becoming the 2020 Supra. CALTY’s focus on technology and future mobility was exemplified by the unveiling of the Concept-i in 2017, emphasizing the importance of warmth and welcoming in mobility technology.

2020s – Looking Ahead

As CALTY celebrates its 50th anniversary, it continues to push the boundaries of automotive design. The studio’s recent contributions include the Calty-designed Lexus Electrified Sport, unveiled by Akio Toyoda in 2021. Looking to the future, CALTY designers are already forecasting trends and conceptualizing vehicles like the Baby Lunar Cruiser (BLC), an off-road adventure machine concept that combines a recreational spirit with augmented reality technology.


For five decades, CALTY Design Research has been at the forefront of automotive design, consistently delivering innovative and impactful designs for Toyota and Lexus. From its early days in California to its global presence today, CALTY has shaped the industry’s trends and set the standard for creativity and advanced design. As the studio looks ahead to the next 50 years, one thing is certain: CALTY will continue to push the boundaries of design, creating vehicles that captivate and inspire.