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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Syd Mead

Syd Mead: U.S. Steel Interface - a portfolio of probabilities, 1969.
I could look at his auto designs for hours on end.
As a kid growing up, I always had an intense interest in the ongoing technological developments which would shape the future. I was especially fascinated with the art and design--the look and feel--of life in the future. I was fascinated by science, but only to the point that algebra became involved. The year 1999 seemed a long way off. A decade later, the movie, 2001: a Space Odyssey seemed like an eternity far removed from my daily plodding life. Actually, it turned out it was. The year 2101 might have been more accurate--we shall see--well, I won't, but hopefully a few of us will. In any case, I wasn't alone. Syd Mead had a similar fascination. Though twelve years older than I (he was born in 1933) and living predominantly in the western U.S., I didn't know of him at the time and have still never met him (not that I wouldn't like to). We share a love for the same futuristic things--his art.

An auto design from Mead's
days as a student (1958). Looks
like a Ford Delorean to me.
Mead's Tron cycles from twenty
years later (the first digitally
animated film) bear few similarities.

Innovari Automobile Prototype, originally created for the U.S. Steel (1968), intended as a catalog of the many ways in which steel could be used to great advantage in a new era of design. The car anticipated today's practical and rakish hatchback configuration.
Syd Mead and one of his 60s era
space station designs.
Following a stint in the Army, Syd studied at the Art Center School in Los Angeles where he graduated in 1959. Immediately the talented young artist was snapped up by Elwood Engle at the Ford Motor Company's Advanced Styling Studio where he worked for two years. Following that, Mead worked freelance, illustrating science fiction books, and creating forward-looking catalogs for several large corporations, among them U.S. Steel where he was given free rein to unleash his futuristic automobile concepts on a scale far beyond that of the ever-practical designers at Ford. His dart-like automotive projectile (top) and the Innovari Prototype (above) are from this effort, what has now come to be called oxymoronically, "retro-future."

WonderWall concept painting for Playboy, 1971
The TV screen is shown in its alternative mode, that of a liquid-crystal light show.

Where's all the girls?
A Mead designed agricultural space colony.
In 1970, Syd Mead founded his own design company and began to branch out into futuristic interiors, publishing, conceptual architectural design, and most lucratively, motion pictures. The list of films in which he collaborated iis almost too long to list, classics such as Disney's Tron, Star Trek (V'ger), Blade Runner, Aliens, Mission Impossible III, Johnny Mnemonics, Mission to Mars (left), and most recently, Elysium. Mead has also provided design elements for such computer games as Cyber Speedway, and Wing Commander: Prophecy. Since 1983, Syd has worked closely with a number of Japanese corporate clients such as Sony, Minolta, Tiger, and Honda. Wonder what he has planned for the future.

Syd Mead's conceptual art for the 2013 movie, Elysium.


For a broader view of the Meade portfolio, click the center arrow below:


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