Sienna Workshop at the Calty Research Center

May 27, 2010

[ Note from Design Mom: I had such a fantastic time at the Toyota design center last year (I heart design-behind-the-scenes) that I jumped at the chance to go again this year. But the dates of the event were exactly the same as Baby June's due date. Bummer. So I asked gorgeous Karey of Mackin Ink to attend the event in my place. Her excellent report follows. ]

When Gabby asked me to represent Design Mom at a Toyota event in California, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. California? How exciting! But those who know me even a smidge know that I’d never gush over a car. Especially – gasp! – a minivan. Shoes? Yes. Turquoise? Check. Chubba-lubba new baby faces? For sure. Minivans? Not in a million.

Yet there I drooled in Newport Beach last week at Calty Design Research, Toyota’s North American design studio, as I and a bunch of other bloggers were treated to an in-depth peek at the 2011 Sienna.

The President of Calty described the design process behind the Sienna with so much enthusiasm it was like it was his first day on the job. He calls cars freedom machines. He embraces and encourages the napkin stage of design. Imagine that: scribbles taken seriously. It was incredibly infectious.

This mood grew all day as we were shown the roots of the Sienna by those who’d planted them. We met the team who engineered the exterior, dreaming up a minivan where everything ugly is hidden and everything how did I ever live without that is made stunning. Like the windshield wipers tucked into a secret slot, which looks amazing but also protects them from freezing in colder climates.

The Sienna’s interior just about sent me to the sun twice, especially when I spied the little spot for our giant It bags. The designer was simply sick of his wife’s feet surrounded by totes and baskets full of odds and ends. He made room for everything there’d never been room for before. Brilliant.

The Toyota design team is inspired by mood boards, too. They combine colors and forecast trends and say things like “Isn’t that genius?” and cut and paste and publish just like we do. In fact, one of the designers who chose the Sienna’s colors and fabrics used to be a kitchen and bath designer once upon a time. She had a killer aesthetic. I bet she’d design a most excellent blog.

There’s one part of the design process that I just couldn’t understand: the clay model. Briefly, any design concept doesn’t – and shouldn’t – move forward until a true-to-size clay replica of the vehicle is created, which seems almost prehistoric. Clay? Still? There’s nothing newer and better and slicker?

But then I met the clay artistes, and they most definitely do require that additional e. These old-school artisans even made their own tools so that they’re truly extensions of their hands.  We were told we could look at these tools, but DO. NOT. TOUCH. Those boys were quite proprietary. I tried. I begged and pleaded with no success until I pointed out to one of them that our hands were almost the same size.

It worked like a charm, and I finally had the one tool I needed to mold my own ground-breaking clay minivan model. With a fully convertible roof.

Toyota also organized a charity scavenger hunt for us. We were able to test-drive the new Sienna while gathering up art supplies for our team’s charity, Art & Creativity for Healing, which facilitates fine art classes and workshops for those who’ve endured abuse, illness, grief, or stress. It made me love the Sienna even more. Thanks for that, Toyota.

Thank you, too, to little June Blair for jumping into the world at exactly the right moment to occupy her mom’s May. One of the sweetest compliments I caught was “Are you Gabby’s sister?” I may have said yes. Twice.

Be sure to participate in the freshly launched Small Talk contest sponsored by Toyota Sienna and hosted by Ryan Seacrest. All you need to do is visit and upload a video of your child answering one or more questions from the list featured on the Small Talk channel. The top entries will be featured online and the YouTube community will vote for their favorite. And that favorite wins $10,000.

One more thing. How many times have you and your babes watched this?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 katie May 27, 2010 at 9:07 am

i’m (sniff) so (sniff sniff) sad (sniff sniff sniff) i missed you.
somber newport beach girl (katie)


2 Design Mom May 27, 2010 at 10:02 am

I was so sad to miss it, but grateful that Karey could go in my place. Who doesn’t want a great excuse to visit the beach? : )


3 ks May 27, 2010 at 11:50 am

While reading this I was making a mental note to write a comment about how I love the Sienna (I do not own one, nor have I ever driven one) based solely on the hilarious “swagger wagon” video. I am so happy that you included the link for all to see!


4 karey m. May 27, 2010 at 1:12 pm

thanks, gabby! this was great fun and such a treat to represent lovely you.

if you ever get invited to an event in…say…hawaii or thailand or even australia, i imagine i’ll be free once again.



5 Ciaran/Momfluential May 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm

It was a treat to meet you Karey! I think I might have been gushing about your fab dress and awesome accessories almost as much as the van. You have such great design cred, just floating all around you like a halo of goodness. Would love to see your final minivan design!


6 Kate Skogen May 27, 2010 at 3:26 pm

oh, smokes- that video is hysterical. thanks for sharing!!


7 Mary A. May 28, 2010 at 7:04 am

Love, love that video. Love, love my old Sienna…coveting the new one even more and I think they really nailed it with their “Mommy Like” slogan.


8 Barchbo May 28, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I don’t know much about minivans, but you look so pretty and stylish! Love that blue scarf!


9 Bri May 30, 2010 at 9:11 pm

We LOVE the ‘Swagger Wagon’ videos!! My husband thinks he is just like the dad. :oP


10 Issa June 1, 2010 at 5:56 am

this is the coolest wall decal ever! :P I love it! My family and I love Napoleon Dynamite and it’s just super perfect!


11 Reyna May 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I resisted getting a minivan for so long. Then I test drove a Sienna…. Now I love my minivan!!


12 Linda May 16, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Karey….it’s so fun to see you here. Do you remember when we met at Susan’s baby shower a few years ago?


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