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Syd Mead: Painting the future of transport

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Continuing our theme of future of transport in our last blog post, Futuristic Trains, Planes and Automobiles, this week we’re taking a look at the work of probably the world’s best known conceptual artist, Syd Mead.

Who is Syd Mead?

If there’s one person who probably does know a thing or two about how our vehicles might look in the future it’s Syd Mead - conceptual designer famed for his work on classic Sci-fi films like Bladerunner, Tron and Aliens.

Although Syd Mead died at the end of 2019 he left a huge mark on the way we came to envisage the future with his incredible paintings and illustrations of cities and vehicles.

Reportedly his last words were:

“I am done here. They’re coming to take me back.”

The first film he was credited on contributing to was the first Star Trek movie in 1979 and went on to provide conceptual designs for lots more movies and even Japanese Anime (Cartoons) but the one that he’ll really be remembered for is Bladerunner (and it’s sequel, Bladerunner 2049):

Some of his fantastic early work for Tron, 2010 (The sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey) and Short Circuit can be seen on the Syd Mead website.

Syd’s Approach to depicting the future

Syd actually started his career designing cars for Ford, moving on to producing illustrations for large engineering and electronics firms - this grounded his conceptual work for film in reality that few other artists could match.

In 2014 a show of his work “Syd Mead Progressions” featuring 50 of his artworks, including his early work from the 60’s for Ford - When you look at his depictions of futuristic cars they really look as though they could exist - they are not fanciful at all, looking very functional.

Syd Mead US Steel Concept

He was very open about his approach and outspoken of other artists' difficulties trying to emulate what he did when they lacked the background in engineering.

He can be seen talking about this is several fascinating documentaries where he describes his process which right up until the end was done using traditional media without the involvement of computers:


By Alastair Baker at 13 Jun 2020, 00:00 AM