Renowned Futurist Syd Mead Passes Away at Age 86

Renowned Futurist Syd Mead Passes Away at Age 86
Renowned Futurist Syd Mead Passes Away at Age 86

The World of Syd Mead: A Visionary Concept Artist and Futurist

Syd Mead, the legendary concept artist and futurist, has recently passed away, leaving behind a legacy of incredible artwork and a unique worldview. In this article, we will delve into his life and explore his perspective on the future. Syd Mead’s vision of a technologically advanced and egalitarian society continues to inspire us, and we send our condolences to his partner Roger, as well as his friends and family. Although Syd Mead may no longer be with us, his vision of the future lives on, waiting for us to embrace it. So, let us celebrate the life of Syd Mead and honor his remarkable contributions to art and futurism.

Syd Mead’s Thoughts on the Future

Syd Mead strongly believed in the power of visualization, maintaining that if we envision a dismal world, that is exactly what we will end up with. He hoped that the dystopian scenarios depicted in movies and other media were simply a form of catharsis and not an accurate representation of our future. Mead’s mission was to depict a glossy, egalitarian society that thrived on technical advancements and where everyone played their part. He wanted to create a workable and pleasant future. Mead’s words exemplify his positive outlook on what lies ahead: “I hope all these dystopian shoot-em-ups are cathartic—I truly hope that’s all they are. In the meantime, I’m doing my small part to visualize a glossy, egalitarian—that means everyone does their part or it doesn’t work—technically advanced society that produces a workable future, and a nicer place to live. That’s what I want.”

Syd Mead’s Passion for the Proscenium

Syd Mead often contemplated the concept of the proscenium, which he saw as the boundary between our reality and the world of fantasy. The proscenium could be a physical archway found in a theater, the frame around a painting, or even the boundary of a television or movie screen. Mead even witnessed an advanced movie projection technology that allowed the audience to be fully immersed in a dome with 3-D camera projection. Mead expressed both fascination and caution about such technological advancements, stating that while they could provide incredible experiences, they also had the potential to blur the lines between external and internal reality. Mead’s view reflects a concern that technology could reach a point where people cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not. This loss of the proscenium is something that Mead finds unsettling.

Syd Mead’s Journey from a Baptist Minister’s Son to a Visionary Concept Artist

Syd Mead’s upbringing in St. Paul, Minnesota was quite unique, as he was raised by a fundamentalist Baptist minister who held a fine arts degree. Despite his father’s religious beliefs, Mead’s fascination with art was nurtured. His father kept every drawing his son made from the age of three and introduced him to science fiction stories featuring characters like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. However, Mead was not allowed to go to movie theaters because his father believed they were owned by the devil. Nevertheless, Mead managed to “deprogram” himself while in high school, and his first job involved creating illustrations for a film company in Colorado Springs. This opportunity allowed him to meet people who exposed him to new experiences, leading to a further expansion of his world.

While serving in the Army during the Korean War, Mead utilized his artistic ability to excel in his position as a field draftsman. After his service, Mead spent time exploring Hong Kong and absorbing its visual landscape. Upon his return to the United States, Mead attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Despite being a standout student, Mead was eager to step into the professional world, and Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Styling Studio became his first employer. Mead’s involvement in the design world provided him the opportunity to envision the future through his artwork. His vehicle designs, characterized by sleekness and innovation, captured the imagination of both professionals and the general public. The attention to detail and inclusion of people in his futuristic scenarios set his work apart from that of his contemporaries.

Mead’s Career as a Visionary Concept Artist

In 1964, Mead designed Ford’s “Future” exhibit for the World’s Fair, an endeavor that solidified his reputation as a visionary concept artist. However, he soon left Ford to join a small Chicago firm that offered him creative freedom and challenges. Mead’s ability to think outside the box and immerse himself in the subject matter allowed him to create captivating designs that were truly revolutionary. His collaboration with Celanese Corporation stands as a testament to his unique approach. Mead went beyond a typical logo design by actually understanding the chemical processes behind the company’s product. This level of dedication and curiosity led him to create a logo that was abstract yet meaningful to the client.

Throughout his career, Mead was not limited to specific industries or companies. He worked on various projects for different names, including U.S. Steel, creating a series of books that were game-changers. Mead’s “portfolio of probabilities” showcased his unparalleled talent for visualizing transportation, habitation, furniture, fashion, and more. His designs were not just fantastical; they were grounded in possibility, making them all the more compelling. Mead’s foresight allowed him to encapsulate the essence of what a future society could look like, while still maintaining an element of feasibility.

The Legacy of Syd Mead

Syd Mead’s contributions to the world of concept art and futurism are immeasurable. His visionary artwork and unique perspective have left a profound impact on the industry. Mead’s ability to transport viewers into a world of his creation, no matter how fantastical, was a testament to his exceptional talent. He believed in the power of visualization and actively encouraged others to practice this craft. Mead’s mentorship of young artists was instrumental in passing down his knowledge and fostering the growth of future visionaries.

As we bid farewell to Syd Mead, we are reminded of his powerful statement: “If we start rehearsing a dismal world, that’s the way we’ll end up.” Let us embrace Mead’s vision of a glossy, egalitarian society and strive to create a better future for ourselves and generations to come. Syd Mead may no longer be with us, but his vision lives on, waiting for us to bring it to life.

Long live the future, Syd!

– Atta and Annie, Hi-Fructose co-founders