RIP Syd Mead

Sad. My rendering hero. RIP!

When I was about 10 my parents had this VHS/CRT combo thing and they would let me take it into my bedroom on the weekends so I could watch sci-fi movies on repeat. One weekend they let me rent Blade Runner, obviously they had never seen it, because I remember thinking about 15 minutes in as Zora is getting shot that a 10 year old shouldn’t be watching this. I probably watched Blade Runner 15 times that weekend :slight_smile:

A few years later, when I was in design School, Syd Mead came to speak at Brown University (which is right next door to RISD). I went over to the lecture and it was interesting to hear him talk about how difficult it was for him to work on Blade Runner. Since he was an optimist about the future, it was hard to make and then be known for this dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic which was critical to make the world of the movie, but not what he hoped the future would be like. Ironic so many of use were inspired by it.


Will pour out a shot of whatever Officer K and Lt. Joshi are drinking.

Blade Runner was waaaaay off limits to me as a kid. Probably saw it after already being in design school. But did encounter his sketches, interiors, vehicle work in books and magazines before then, and TRON was a huge influence as well. He was a giant.

Yah, I don’t think it is good material for a 10 year old to be watching about 6 inches from the screen :smiley:

Aliens was another one that influenced me a lot at that age. Ironic given how much I dislike the CyberTruck, basically a photo CyberTruck is loaded into the drop ship… actually, probably why I don’t like the CyberTruck. I remember seeing the blocky USS Salaco starship and being struck by how it made sense, it’s in space, it is just an ungainly blocky thing.

In 1972 (I am well aware of how long ago that is) I was a young designer at Raymond Lowey’s office in NYC. I was working on the design of a new transit bus for AMG and the US-DOT. I was in Detroit working with AMG on details and the full-size model. Mead was doing the presentation renderings of the exterior and interior and I was tasked with going to his home to pick up the renderings. I remember it as being very midwest suburban - nothing at all like his illustrations for US Steel or Playboy. I was, never the less, starstruck to meet my hero, a 10 minute grab and go turned in to a couple of hours. One of my most memorable moments working for Lowey. Thank you Syd Mead!

May have to watch Blade Runner today to honor Syd and Rutger’s legacy.
Images from Kotaku article:Syd Mead Has Died

What an amazing moment for a young designer! Your description of his house reminds me a bit of that old Oscar Wilde quote “Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures”.

Here is a video manage of work (I have the second rendering in the video framed as a print in my studio).

The car site Jalopnik did a nice write up: Syd Mead, The Man Who Showed Us What The Future Looked Like, Has Died

Reading about his work over the years for many companies and studios it makes you realize why his movie work always had an air of believability to it, even when it was fantastical. He seemed to think things through, at least at a high level, enough to give you a sense that they could be real. Think about how little time the Spinner has on screen in the original Blade Runner and how much we all love it. Or the Solaco in Aliens.

Holy cow what a story, Dan!


This news makes me sad on so many levels.

  • A great designer gone!
  • Seeing that with each passing year more and more people from my younger days are dying…David Bowie, Keith Flint, Syd Mead etc etc
  • Reminds me of my own mortality and how nothing is permanent.

I remember stealing CAR STYLING issue 59 from my school’s design library. The guilt was too much so I slipped it back in one week later. Made black and white photo copies instead :slight_smile: Anyone remember photo copier at design school library? You had to use coins to use it :slight_smile:

how many designers discovered their profession because of him?

Great story Dan! What an amazing talent. I always got inspired look at his stuff. I might have to dig some gouache out of the art supply box and paint in tribute.

oh man, that was fun to watch. :slight_smile:

He dropped by my class one day and we watched a video of him at work. The thing I remember the most was his sense of humor.

+1 that’s really cool.

Blade Runner came out in 1982. The manga for ‘Akira’ first started in late 1982. Look at the Syd Mead image above, compared with this cell from the 1988 Akira animation. Mead ‘invented’ or at least influenced this idea of ‘Neo-Tokyo’ with the heavy grungy super-city look. My impressions of ‘Do Androids Dream…’ is nothing like the urban dystopia presented in Blade Runner. Just pointing out another (obvious) seminal aesthetic innovation.

I legit very nearly started crying watching this, because of his vision and technique. He was SO GOOD.

Can I get a show of hands, who was hoping to see the Sulaco nuke the site from orbit? Using that big weapon on the bottom of the ship.

I will today to celebrate Syd Meads work by watching Blade Runner for the first time in my life. (I was a minor in 1982.)

Ah, he just didn’t make it into the most futuristic of years.
What a loss and great inspiration, the Colani of the US maybe.
Every designer needs to reflect on his work, or let’s do a product sketch inspired by him.
I can only find some of his ID work for Philips, before he started doing the Hollywood stuff.
Would be great to have more sources on that.