Syd Mead, The Artist Behind Blade Runner, Has Passed Away
Concept artist Syd Mead, famous for his work on Blade Runner and Tron among many others, has died. He was 86 years old.
Mead, a self-proclaimed “visual futurist”, passed away after a three-year battle with lymphoma, as confirmed by his spouse, Roger Servick. The news comes barely three months after Mr Mead had officially announced his retirement after a 60-year career in conceptual design.
Born in St. Paul Minnesota, July 18th, 1933, Sydney Jay Mead served in the US Army for three years and graduated from the Art Center School in Los Angeles (now the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena) in 1959 before beginning his design career in earnest at the Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Styling Studio. His ‘unique’ outlook meant Mead’s tenure with the Blue Oval lasted only two years, and in 1970, Syd Mead Inc. was inaugurated and had soon banked deals with United States Steel and Phillips Electronics among many others before a lucrative move to California in 1975.
By 1979, Mead’s designs had caught the eye of Hollywood, which led to work on his first feature length film that year, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Conceptual artwork for TRON (1982), 2010 (1984), Short Circuit (1986), Aliens (1986) and Time Cop (1994) would follow, but despite a burgeoning film career, automobiles remained Mead’s first love: one of his first major Japanese clients in 1983 was Honda, after all.
Nowhere is this vehicular passion more aptly demonstrated than his most famous work, shaping the dystopian landscape of Ridley Scott’s troubled epic, Blade Runner in 1982.
“The whole idea of designing vehicles for movies,” he explained to Car Design News in 2016, “is that you’re helping the director illustrate the story, which has a social and technological setting. You have to be aware of that: you don’t want to jar the story. It needs to be consistent, and that’s what I think makes the vehicles in Blade Runner so iconic and durable.”
Arguably, Mead’s ‘Spinners’ for Blade Runner and his epochal light cycle for Tron that same year helped shape the look of cinematic science fiction thereafter, and you need only look at The Fifth Element, Total Recall and The Matrix for proof of that. Fittingly, Mead’s final credited work was for the long-awaited sequel – Blade Runner 2049 – released in 2017.
But of all his vehicular creations, which model does the now departed Syd Mead wish he had designed? The answer may surprise you…
“The car I wish I had designed, and at the time, it was my first luxury car to purchase, a ’61 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. It’s beautifully proportioned, and the fact that it had what they call the ‘scag fin’ down the side gave it this floating linear quality. It was an elite, exotic automobile, and I wish I’d worked on that.”
*Images courtesy of sydmead.com