Blade Runner designer Syd Mead dies aged 86

American artist Syd Mead, who is best known for his visual concept designs for sci-fi film Blade Runner, has died at the age of 86.

The renowned industrial designer, concept artist and futurist helped shape the look of numerous sci-fi films including Blade Runner, Tron, Aliens and Star Trek.

Mead passed away at his home in Pasadena, California, on Monday 30 December 2019 due to complications from lymphoma cancer. His death was confirmed by his husband and business manager Roger Servick.

“He left us peacefully accompanied by his partner Roger Servick surrounded by a gentle fire, Christmas decorations, and a wonderful array of his artwork,” said a statement on the designer’s website.

“His final words were, ‘I am done here. They’re coming to take me back.'”

Elon Musk pays tribute to Mead

Tributes to Mead were led by Tesla founder Elon Musk who wrote on Twitter: “Rest in peace Syd Mead. Your art will endure.”

Mead’s work on the 1982 Blade Runner film is said to have inspired the design of Musk’s futuristic Tesla Cybertruck – a bulletproof electric vehicle made to look like a cross between a pickup truck and a stealth fighter jet.

“I am so saddened to hear of the passing of visionary illustrator and concept artist Syd Mead,” said Art Directors Guild‘s (ADG) president Nelson Coates in a statement. “His pivotal role in shaping cinema was unique, with a singular ability to visualize the future.”

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The concept designer was set to receive the ADG William Cameron Menzies Award at the organisation’s 24th annual ceremony in February for his cinematic contributions.

“As one of the most influential conceptual artists of our time, his visions and illustrations of future technological worlds will remain as a testament to his vast imagination,” added Coates.

Mead began career at Ford

Mead was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on 18 July 1933. He graduated from high school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1951, before serving a three-year enlistment in the US Army. He then attended the Art Center School in Los Angeles, where he graduated in June 1959.

Mead’s started his career designing vehicles for Ford Motor Company, before launching his own corporation named Syd Mead Inc, in 1970.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Syd Mead Inc provided both interior and exterior architectural renderings for clients including Intercontinental Hotels, 3D International, Harwood Taylor & Associates, Don Ghia, and Gresham & Smith.

In the late 1970s Mead began to work with studios to develop feature films. He would end up creating designs for films including Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, Tron, Short Circuit, Aliens, Time Cop, Johnny Mnemonic, Mission Impossible 3.

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In 2018, Mead published his autobiography called A Future Remembered. The artist announced his retirement in September 2019, after 60 years of concept design.

Photography is by Jenny Risher.


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