Syd Mead, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Aliens’ Concept Artist and Futurist, Dies at 86

The Art Directors Guild was meant to honor Mead with the William Cameron Menzies Award in February

Syd Mead
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Syd Mead, a visual effects artist and American industrial designer who helped imagine the futuristic look of science fiction classics like “Blade Runner” and “Aliens,” has died. He was 86.

A representative with the Art Directors Guild, which was meant to honor Mead in February with the William Cameron Menzies Award, told TheWrap that Mead died on Monday in Pasadena, California due to complications from lymphoma cancer, for which he had been undergoing treatment for the past year.

Roger Servick, his spouse and business partner of 40 years, was by his side and heard his last words, “I’m done here. They’re coming to take me back.”

Mead was known as a “visual futurist” whose concept art and architectural background served as the basis for Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi, as well as other films such as “2010,” “TRON” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” More recently, Mead served as a consultant on the films “Tomorrowland,” “Elysium” and “Blade Runner 2049.”

He specifically worked with Scott on the building design for “Blade Runner,” with Steven Lisberger on the light cycles in “TRON” and with James Cameron on the look of the U.S.S. Sulaco in “Aliens.”

Prior to working in both film and video games, Mead worked with tech and automotive companies in helping to visualize products for Ford, Sony, U.S. Steel, Philips Electronics, Minolta, Dentsu, Honda, Chrysler and even Playboy.

In 2018, the Art Directors Guild awarded him with an Excellence in Production Design prize for his work on “Blade Runner 2049,” and in 2016, the Visual Effects Society gave him its Visionary Award. And in 2018, Mead published his autobiography “A Future Remembered.”

“On behalf of the Art Directors Guild, we are saddened to hear that Syd Mead has passed away at 86 and extend our condolences to his family and friends. As previously announced, the ADG was to honor Syd at our annual awards event on February 1 with the William Cameron Menzies Award and it is our plan to continue to recognize this inspiring talent,” Nelson Coates, president of the Art Directors Guild (IATSE Local 800), said in a statement. “Syd Mead has played a pivotal role in shaping cinema with his unique ability to visualize the future. His visions and illustrations of future technological worlds remain as a testament to his vast imagination. While we are sorry he was not able to experience the celebration in person, we know his presence will be felt as we acknowledge his contributions to the world of design in all forms.”

In a 2008 piece about Los Angeles architecture in the New York Times, Mead was quoted as saying that science fiction is “reality ahead of schedule.” More recently, Mead spoke with Curbed about additional work developing concept art for theme parks, revealing that he even worked on what would’ve been a possible theme park inspired by Michael Jackson.

Some of Mead’s other credits include “Short Circuit,” “Timecop,” “Mission to Mars” and “Mission: Impossible III.”

He is survived and forever loved by his sister, Peggy Lee, and his business partner and spouse of 40 years, Roger Servick. Arrangements for a private “Celebration of Life” service are pending at Forest Lawn, Glendale.