By Design: Q&A with CALTY’s William Chergosky

The 2020 Highlander’s interior design gets a sharp, sophisticated upgrade
by Kristen Orsborn
September/October 2019
By Design: Q&A with CALTY’s William Chergosky
Driving Design
CALTY’s chief designer loves having the chance to work with different vehicle classes. But as a Highlander owner, he relished the opportunity to upgrade the SUV’s interior for the 2020 model year.
William Chergosky works with cars all day. It’s his job, after all. But when he was tasked with designing the interior of the 2020 Highlander, it felt a little personal.

“I guess I should tell you up front that I drive a Highlander,” Chergosky says. “So, I’m really designing the kind of interior I personally want to have.”

Good thing he’s got great taste. We talked to Chergosky recently about his role and the “structural sandwich” that takes center stage in the next-generation Highlander.
Toyota Today: What do you do?

Chergosky: I’m a chief designer at CALTY.

TT: Let’s back up. How would you explain CALTY to someone who isn’t familiar?

Chergosky: So, CALTY is part of Toyota’s global design network located in Newport Beach, California, which is focused on advanced and experimental design; Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is focused on North American production design; and the Toyota Innovation Hub, which is focused on improving the human mobility experience. 

TT: Well, that sounds like a cool job.

Chergosky: It is! Every day is a new day, design-wise. At CALTY we can try new things. Each day I’m working on different projects, different classes of cars. It’s wonderful.

TT: What inspired you to work in the automotive industry?

Chergosky: I was always intrigued by cars. I was that kid sitting in class and drawing. I had an English teacher who said, “You’ve got to stop that and study.” But I kept at it, and I had a great mechanical drawing teacher who actually pushed me to pursue it. Every kid who draws cars hopes to find a way to do it for a living. And I had the magical chance to make it happen.

TT: You recently designed the interior of the new 2020 Highlander. Where'd you get your inspiration?

Chergosky: We had a great concept from Japan, this idea of “powerful suave.” But those words are just a spark. Where do you go from there? We knew the previous-generation Highlander was a great base to build on, but we wanted to make sure the next generation felt much more rich and high-end, with an easy-to-understand design theme. We call the design a “structural sandwich.” Kind of a funny name, but you can see the way the instrument panel is put together piece by piece, so it doesn’t feel so manufactured. It looks like it was built by hand. It’s really a piece of art.

Sink Your Teeth In
Chergoksy describes the layered instrument panel as a “structural sandwich,” where each element contains a function and integrates into a final composition.

TT: Craftsmanship?

Chergosky: Craftsmanship! Being able to convey craftsmanship in its very design and the essence was a key part. You see this beautiful tailored leather with pockets for storage. In the current Highlander, the storage looks really obvious. In the new Highlander, the storage feels integral to the design. Not just a place to put things, but actually enhancing the styling.

TT: What do you want a customer to feel when they drive the new Highlander and experience the interior?

Chergosky: Life is always messy with family cars. Things don’t always go where they should. But with Highlander, I want it to convey an elegant, beautiful life. Life is messy, and I always say ‘design for the worst case.’ But if your vehicle can make things feel more calm and give you a sophisticated sanctuary you feel connected to — that’s great design.

To learn more about William Chergosky check out this video:

The 2020 Highlander hits dealerships later this year. The gas model debuts in December followed by the hybrid in February.

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