Syd Mead designed the future.
Though it’s sad news I write about — that designer, concept artist and visionary futurist Syd Mead died on December 30, 2019 at the age of 86 — it’s somehow fitting that a post about him is my first for the start of a new decade.
He is best known as a concept artist responsible for the futuristic look of movies like Blade Runner, Tron, Aliens and many others, but Mead’s influence goes back further and extends well beyond his movie work and actual designs.
For example, we take the designs for the Star Wars series for granted now, but if you look at Mead’s work from the 1970’s, you can see the DNA in the designs of the tech, even though he was not directly involved in that series
Mead created a futuristic aesthetic that influenced generations of concept artists, vehicle designers and creative professionals of all kinds, and through them his designs infused much of popular culture, along with the actual design of contemporary technology.
His primary medium was gouache, also favored by other major concept artists and designers in the mid 20th century. If you do a search on YouTube for “syd mead” “gouache”, you’ll find some video previews of his course through Gnomon Workshopd. James Gurney has a nice article on his gouache technique on his blog, GurneyJourney.
Mead’s designs from 40 or more years ago still look futuristic.
His future was bright, sleek, high-tech and visually stunning. We’re lucky to have his influence in our art and culture.
It’s Syd Mead’s future, we just live in it.