Science fiction would not be what it is today without the influence of Syd Mead. Mead, a futurist and industrial designer whose work on films such as Blade Runner, Tron, and Aliens, died early this morning at the age of 86. Curbed confirmed the sad news.
The spinner from Blade Runner, the lightcycle from Tron, the robot in Short Circuit, the power loader from Aliens, all those things and more were influenced, conceived, or designed by Mead. And while his work in Hollywood may be his most recognisable, his film career capped an array of earlier accomplishments.
Born in Minnesota in 1933, Mead soon moved west, first to Colorado, and eventually Los Angeles, where he went to art school. He served three years in the U.S. Army before being recruited by the Ford Motor Company to help its design team. That ballooned into bigger work and by 1970, he’d formed his own company, Syd Mead Inc. The company primarily worked on industrial design and architecture before transitioning into film.
His first major film work was the V’Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. From there, he helped Ridley Scott conceive the futuristic world of Blade Runner, including many of its vehicles. Mead performed the same task on Disney’s Tron, consulted on Johnny 5 in Short Circuit, helped design the Sulaco in Aliens, and on and on through the years, most recently working on Elysium and Tomorrowland, and helping Ridley Scott again on Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.
Mead was already set to get the William Cameron Menzies Award from the Art Directors Guild early in 2020. “Syd Mead has played a pivotal role in shaping cinema with his unique ability to visualise the future,” ADG President Nelson Coates told the Hollywood Reporter when the honour was announced last month. “His visions and illustrations of future technological worlds remain as a testament to his vast imagination. Mead is one of the most influential concept artists and industrial designers of our time.”