Visual artist and futurist Syd Mead, who helped shape the look of influential sci-fi films including “Blade Runner,” “Tron,” “Aliens” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” died Monday of complications from lymphoma in Pasadena, Calif. He was 86.– Variety
Mr. Syd Mead is one of those people who, while the average sci-fi fan may not immediately recognize his name, would immediately recognize his work. Like a lesser-known artist with a catchy song on the radio that you’ve heard 1000 times, yet can’t quite pinpoint who’s behind it (or maybe you attribute it to someone else), Syd Mead’s fingerprints are all over the genre we call modern sci-fi, and artists all over the world have cited him as influences on their work.
Perhaps his best known contributions to the sci-fi art world lie within Blade Runner and Aliens, where the clean lines and sleek forms of futuristic architecture and engineering clashed with dingy environmental conditions, urban congestion, and other more “here and now” issues. This art style and influence has since been replicated and homaged endlessly, and have no doubt influenced decades of sci-fi film, television, video games, and even real-life designs.
Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of Syd Mead’s influence was in the Mass Effect series. My personal favorite RPG series of all time drew heavy inspiration from a number of different sci-fi franchises, and they especially turned to Syd when it came time to nail down the series’ vehicle design.
For the vehicles, we referenced a lot of Syd Mead designs. He did a lot of futuristic cars; he even did heavy vehicles—he did one for Aliens. He also did some concepts for vehicles for Mars and moons, probably for NASA. He did a lot of industrial vehicles in his earlier books. So we had a lot of reference for this. The problem was if you tried to draw something to look like Syd Mead, it looked like a really bad version of Syd Mead.– Derek Watts, Art Director, Bioware
All in all, chances are if you’ve played a sci-fi video game in modern era, or if you’ve seen any good sci-fi films lately – or even laid eyes on any futuristic vehicle concept art from Mercedes or Tesla, you’ve probably seen a little bit of Syd Mead influence, and didn’t even know it.
Thanks for everything, Syd. RIP.