Noted Futurist and Pasadena Resident Syd Mead Dies at 86

Published : Monday, January 6, 2020 | 5:38 AM

Long-time Pasadena resident Syd Mead, a visual artist and futurist whose design credits include such influential sci-fi films as “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Blade Runner,” “Tron” and “Aliens,” has died of complications from lymphoma. He was 86.

Mead had been in failing health and was undergoing treatment at City of Hope in Duarte. He died Monday, his spouse and business partner Roger Servick said.

Mead was set to receive the William Cameron Menzies Award from the Art Directors Guild (ADG) in February for his contributions on some of these films.

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

The Visual Effects Society honored Mead with its Visionary Award in 2015. The next year, he was recognized as the recipient of Car Design News’ Lifetime Achievement Award, joining Marcello Gandini and Fabrizio Giugiaro as only the third recipient of the award which is given at the Geneva Motor Show.

Mead accepted the CDN award on video from his home in Pasadena.

“You look back at car designs that are iconic and have lasted in the public appreciation, there’s something that links them together and there’s a compatibility with the social scene in which they’re used,” Mead said as he received the award in 2016. “If you’re going to think 10 years ahead, you’ll have to think of the social environment and the technical environment that the automobile is going to look at. That’s very important.”

In 2018, Mead was given the Art Directors Guild Award for “Blade Runner 2049.”

Born as Sydney Jay Mead in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mead and his family would later move to the West Coast. He finished high school in Colorado Springs and served a three-year enlistment in the U.S. Army before continuing on to the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. He graduated in 1959.

From ArtCenter, Mead was recruited by Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Styling Studio under the management of top Ford designer Elwood Engel.

After two years, Mead left the studio to accept a variety of assignments to illustrate books and catalogues for large corporations such as United States Steel, Celanese, Allis-Chambers and Atlas Cement. In 1970, he launched Syd Mead Inc. in Detroit to accommodate the design offers he received most notably from Philips Electronics.

In 1979, Mead began his career designing for film. After his extraordinary design work for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and other sci-fi films, Mead quickly became the movie industry’s default choice for creating spectacular futurescapes and the vehicles that drove or flew in them.

More recently, Mead created designs for “Mission: Impossible III,” “Elysium,” and “Tomorrowland.” He also consulted on “Blade Runner 2049.”

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