Syd Mead, 'Blade Runner' Artist And Visual Futurist, Dies At Age 86

Syd Mead, the visual futurist and artist who helped influence the look of films like Blade Runner, Tron, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, has died. He passed away in Pasadena, California on Monday due to complications from lymphoma. Read on for an appreciation of Mead's incredible career.Variety brings the sad news that Mead passed away at the age of 86, just a few months after his announcement in September that he was retiring after spending 60 years in the design field. Mead worked in the auto, steel, and electronics industries before transitioning into the film world, where he designed V'ger for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and went on to help inspire the worlds or vehicles in movies like Blade Runner, Tron, AliensShort Circuit, 2010, Timecop, Johnny MnemonicMission to MarsElysium, and more. Most recently, he returned to the Blade Runner universe by serving as a consultant on Denis Villenueve's Blade Runner 2049.

Mead's name is right up there next to Ralph McQuarrie's when we think about concept artists whose work had a tremendous effect on the look and feel of science fiction cinema. His contributions were perhaps most heavily felt in films from the 1980s, but they were ultimately so striking and impactful that his work is still used as a touchstone today by designers working in genre storytelling and beyond – it seems pretty clear that Mead's work was a huge inspiration for Tesla's recently-unveiled Cybertruck.

According to Variety, the artist was set to receive the Art Directors Guild's William Cameron Menzies Award during the organization's upcoming 24th annual award ceremony in February, specifically calling attention to his work on AliensBlade Runner, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Nelson Coates, the president of the Art Directors Guild, released a statement regarding Mead's death:

"I am so saddened to hear of the passing of visionary illustrator and concept artist Syd Mead. 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."

You can watch Mead reflect on his work on Blade Runner in this short film from a decade ago, and see how some of his designs come to life in a video I made earlier this year showcasing sci-fi vehicles at Los Angeles's Petersen Automotive Museum: