His work transcended Sci-Fi genres and more.

Syd Mead, self-proclaimed “visual futurist” died Monday, December 30th at his home in Pasadena after a three year fight against lymphoma. The artist was 86. His nearly 60-year-long art career spanned work for the Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Styling Center to production and design of props, ships and scenery in anime, video games and major motion pictures, including both Blade Runner movies. His unmistakeable style influenced a generation of designers.

Syd’s distinctive style was well known, even if the viewer didn’t know the artist. He formed his own freelance company and quickly caught the attention of Hollywood. His first entry into a long relationship with science fiction entertainment was as a production illustrator for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where he designed the V’Ger entity in 1978. Two years later, he designed both the Spinner flying cars and the city backgrounds for Blade Runner. That same year, he worked extensively on Tron. The lightcycles, tanks, solar sailer and carriers were all his work. Throughout the rest of the 80s, he designed some of the most iconic cinematic space craft; The Leonov from 2010, Sulaco from Aliens and the various fighters, props, space cruisers and costumes for Yamato 2520.

The rise of home video game consoles and personal computing saw his work expand beyond film. From 1991 through 2016, he designed everything from backgrounds and spacecraft to vehicles and weapon finishes for video games, including Syd Mead’s Terraforming released in 1993 and Wing Commander: Prophesy in 1997

However, his work on movies did not end. More notable titles he worked on are: Johnny Mnemonic, Time Cop, Mission Impossible III, Elysium and Tomorrowland. In 2017, he came full circle, designing the future Las Vegas for Blade Runner 2049.

His movie work was recognized with the Visual Effects Society Award in 2015 and he was to be presented with the 2019 Art Director Guild’s William Cameron Menzies Award at a ceremony in February.

According to his website, Syd retired this past September, but his artwork continues to be displayed with Syd Mead – Future Cities being exhibited in Berlin and Progressions Exhibitions TYO in Tokyo earlier this year.


Wyatt D. Odd
Wyatt D. Odd