Concepts- Blue Sky or Reality Based?

Syd Mead is coming to speak at my school, and in this interview with him:

at about 4.44 he says something like “the future starts from today”- concepts need to be based some-part on reality.

I like concepts that show or hint at a possible path to real-life execution, otherwise the execution becomes ‘magic’.

what do you think- Blue Sky or Reality Based?

sounds like a great opportunity to hear a legend. I’m sure I won’t be close but I’m curious - where’s that going to be?

University of South Australia, Adelaide.

It is open to the public:

Friday March 26

Wow…I’d love to be there…but it’s a little far :wink:

Anyway…for me concepts even as sci-fi as they can get must always have something about them that makes them feasible:
They must evoke a ‘Hey this could work’ reaction. Otherwise they are just fancy drawings and have no credibility. So in a way they must be based on some kind of technology/idea. So there must be some reality in it. But that’s just my opinion.



In general I think if you are working on a project to be produced in the near future, then you need to stay somewhat based in the world of reality (materials, manufacturing etc.). But it doesn’t hurt to sometimes think beyond that as long as you consider the physical limitation of humans or the Laws of Physics. But if you want to break the laws of physics and imagine a good ol’fashion warp-drive thats ok by me too :smiley: .

Sometimes in SciFi they say that if something is far enough in the future, or technologically advanced, it looks like magic… which I interpret as looking nothing like something I understand whatsoever. For concept art, I think as long as you have a good and interesting explanation about what the shapes might mean and it shows in the drawing, it’s good…

For more near-future stuff, I like realistic elements, like the obvious things that have happened over the past 10 years, like miniturization of devices, or the possibility of segway-like vehicles - there’s still incredible design possibilities with oreseable technology. ( I don’t think I could have imagined iphone apps ecosystems or online gaming though).

Remember those AT&T ads from the early 90’s? they were all nearly right on the money but so cool at the time…

Concepts based on current technology/reality and current needs are one thing. Future concepts based on future technology and current needs are another.

What is a third category (and IMHO too often called “concepts”) is the idea that uses future possible tech, but doesn’t take into account current or future possible real world paradigms. Unfortunately, most of the concepts on Yanko and other designer pron sites fall into this category.

What I mean is concepts that use future technology for concepts’ sake. Most often these fail not because the technology is not available, but because they overlook real world and human use patterns. I don’t know how many concepts I’ve seen for projector-bluetooth-GPS-wifi-capabale-XXX that while maybe not technologically feasible today, maybe tomorrow, but still would fail.

The basic understanding on any sound concept needs to come from NEEDS, not technology. Just because something is possible, doesn’t make it useful. If more designers can learn this, it would be a better world.

Yes, you can project a keyboard from a device, but how good will that experience be?

A great example is a student concept I saw while working on an innovation course. The concept was that furniture in an apartment was able to be lifted with a system of pulleys off the ground to make more space in a limited space environment. Sounds great on paper. Small space, maximizing the space by taking the things you don’t need away (ie. dining table, desk, bed, etc) when not in use. The reality is however, that aside from the technology, the concept doesn’t make any sense. If you have your bed go to the ceiling when you are not using it, it is one thing… but what can you do with that space in the interim? You can’t put any furniture there, or it would have to be moved at bedtime… at best you get an empty loft with no way to use the space during the day, and the things you’d normally have it in it during functional times. Plus the added ceiling height would make density less and be better served by making more SF from the get go. While the concept sought to tackle the problem of small space living and did so on the face of things, in reality, in terms of use and needs, it was a no-go.

If we, as designers can focus more on the need instead of the tech, either direction of technology ready designs or future technology designs can be positive. If we ignore the base needs, and only focus on the “what if” we fail.

Just my thoughts.


PS. Would be great to hear SM speak. Jealous.

PPS. Love those ATT ads, and was amazed at them at the time and even moreso now, where pretty much everything they show is now a reality. I think it’s a great example of focusing on the end need and finding tech to match that rather than the tech itself.

Dating back ten years, the European Space Agency (Esa) studied science fiction for ideas and technologies that could be used in future missions.

Very old BBC link: Science fiction powers space research

Convinced you have to be a dreamer, to create visions that drive concepts etc. Mead is one of guys.

Fun stuff that must have looked like magic back when it came out

That second picture is of a parallel universe though, where the earth is backwards and technology like that is common. :smiley:

QFT :wink:

In regards to the projected keyboard and transformable interior:

I’ve had the opportunity to test one of the first prototypes (Siemens) and I must say it worked quite well. Better than expected since I am not a fan of tech-gizmo’s (I don’t have an Iphone/facebook/twitter… and despise most GPS systems) I hate it how technology makes me look dumb. But the keyboard did convince me of it’s usefulness. It even had some kind of ‘tactical’ feedback it would click every time you made a keystroke. Very well done!
In regard to the transformable room. I think pulleys is the wrong way to go. The objects should rise from the floor and be more modular. Like a bed is 4by6 tiles. And the surfaces need to be changeable. For a bed the (top)-surface needs to be soft. For a table and chairs they need to be hard. And even then this would have many disadvantages. So I do agree with you but I also believe that there’s a real market/need for such a modular room/house (especially in japan and other overcrowded spaces).
People have been researching the idea forever…

Maybe this is still the best in the meantime:

BTW loved the AT&T commercials. Very accurate predictions. And I love it how 90’s sci-fi is now very common. Times do change FAST!

Many grtz


hah! It was from a presentation and it looked better that way… nice one, love the SciFi angling!

Cool couch Atoms - I really like that supercompact design that goes into that kind of furniture, especially after moving out of Texas to a tiny apartment! Boxetti has some interesting angular stuff, and this linkhas a few others

I think it’s one thing to make assumptions, and another thing to defy physics.

Those ATT commercials were all based around the understanding that computer and network technology was rapidly expanding, and showed practical applications of things like video conferencing, RFID, and the internet.

It’s another thing if ATT said “Did you ever wish you could turn lead into gold? Power a machine forever on air? Teleport to Xarthon IV?” because that might be pushing it.

Blue sky is good, but sometimes blue sky projects need to be portrayed as just that. Syd Mead wasn’t chief technologist for Apple for a reason. My only gripe with Blue sky is when an ID student comes in and says “Oh well we have a fusion reactor that fits in this golf ball and accelerates this space train to take people to and from the sun”. I had a classmate who wanted to design a space train for one of his class projects once - that went over real well.

Syd Mead news… he just did a cover for a friend of a friend’s book. Not his most exciting work, but he’s still pushing out new stuff

hard to see the illustration, but too bad the typography is terrible.

wish there was more new stuff from him. I’m not familiar with what he is doing lately, but with a talent like he has I would expect to see his stuff popping up so often. Is he retired or something? I could use some Mead weekly and surprised he hasn’t been more busy. Heck, do an awesome render for GM and the brand might even have some relevance and cool factor.


maybe he helped with the new Tron or some other upcoming sci-fi movie that we haven’t or won’t hear about.

I’ve seen some Harold Belker concept sketches after joining a certain company, where you’d never find a mention of it anywhere else… The great Syd Mead could be designing secret space habitats for fans in the Chinese space program for all we know

I like concepts that show some thought, even if it is fanciful “sometime in the future” thought, rather than the laziness of “made-up space-tech sounding technology”.

“Thankyou for Smoking”

Jeff Megall: Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they’re looking to make.
Nick Naylor: Cigarettes in space?
Jeff Megall: It’s the final frontier, Nick.
Nick Naylor: But wouldn’t they blow up in an all-oxygen environment?
Jeff Megall: [long pause] Probably. But, you know, it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue: “Thank God we created the, you know, whatever device.”