Pasadena Designer Earns Car Design News’ Lifetime Achievement Award

Published : Thursday, March 3, 2016 | 7:48 AM

Car Design News, a leading global online resource for the professional automotive design community, has recognized long-time Pasadena resident and futuristic car Syd Mead as its Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2016.

Mead joins Marcello Gandini and Fabrizio Giugiaro as only the third recipient of the award which forms part of the annual Car Design Review book published each spring at the Geneva Motor Show.

Mead was born as Sydney Jay Mead in St. Paul, Minnesota, but his family would later move to the western United States. He finished high school in Colorado Springs and served a three-year enlistment in the U.S. Army, after which he continued on to the ArtCenter College of Design where he graduated in 1959. From there, he 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 first foray into design for the movies. Later on, he was to do design work for such futuristic films as “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Bladerunner,” “TRON,” “Short Circuit,” and “Aliens.” Mead quickly became the movie industry’s default choice for creating spectacular futurescapes and the vehicles that drove or flew in them.

Now 82, Mead is still actively creating the stunning artwork and retains his fascination with the future, be it turning his mind to a utopian vision of a world a hundred years from now, or embracing new design technology that allows his work to further stand out.

Accepting the CDN Lifetime Award on video from his Pasadena home, Mead considers the award very special as it rewards the designer’s interest and sensitivity to the car design effort worldwide.

“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 says. “If you’re going to think ten 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.”

Mead also offered some advice to younger car designers, telling them to “remember everything you see.”

“You have to fill your mind and have your own catalogue of triggers and everything from natural shapes and forms to colorations and logic to mechanical-ness, “ he says. “And I think you have to be able to pay attention to the technical aspect, but inside the boundary of imaginative invention. If you could successfully invent your way around the problem, you’ve won the game.”

The Car Design Review 3 features a comprehensive interview with Mead, and includes original photography of him at work in his home studio, along with some of his best and rarely-seen work from throughout his career. The 192-page hardback book is available for purchase through Amazon and

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