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Syd Mead, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Tron’ visual futurist designer, dies at 86

Syd Mead
Visual futurist Syd Mead, who designed apocalyptic cityscapes for “Blade Runner” and “Blade Runner 2049,” has died.
(Jennifer Lourie / Getty Images)

Syd Mead, the visual futurist designer behind the sci-fi landscapes of “Blade Runner” and “Tron,” died Monday in Pasadena, a representative confirmed to The Times. He was 86.

He died at his home with his spouse and business partner of 40 years, Roger Servick, at his side. The visionary Mead was known for his artistic reimaginings of Los Angeles cityscapes, as seen in his famous dystopian set design for 1982’s “Blade Runner,” starring Harrison Ford.

“Aside from his prodigious artistic talents, Syd was insightful, clever, generous, witty and classy,” Servick wrote in a statement provided to The Times. “In his personal works, numbering in the hundreds, his vision of the future was always bright, positive and inspiring, a true reflection of him as a man.”

Syd Mead
Futurist Syd Mead’s 1988 conception of downtown Los Angeles, circa 2013.
(Syd Mead)
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Mead’s credits include Disney’s groundbreaking visual-effects experiment “Tron,” as well as “2010,” “Star Trek,” “Short Circuit,” “Mission: Impossible III” and “Aliens.” He used his knowledge of technology to create realistic visions of the future.

“If the images aren’t believable, audiences won’t relate to them,” he told The Times in 1988.

Before entering the entertainment biz, Mead started out in auto design, providing the drawing boards for car industry giants such as Chrysler, Ford and General Motors with progressive and functional concept art.

His creations were collected a few years ago at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale, where an exhibit showcased some of his finest works, including his “Future Transports,” with luxury yachts, hyperspace crafts and a folding, telescoping space station.

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Mead most recently lent his talents to “Blade Runner 2049,” the long-anticipated follow-up starring Ford and Ryan Gosling. The 2017 sequel, like its predecessor, was widely praised for its sweeping apocalyptic scenery, and won Oscars in 2018 for cinematography and visual effects.

“Blade Runner 2049"
A scene from “Blade Runner 2049" designed by visual futurist Syd Mead.
(Alcon Entertainment/Warner Bros. Pictures/Sony Pictures)

His artistry garnered praise from admirers both inside and out of the entertainment industry, ranging from his “Tomorrowland” director Brad Bird to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, both of whom penned tributes to Mead on Twitter.

“Rest in peace Syd Mead,” Musk wrote. “Your art will endure.”

During his career, Mead amassed more than 30 Hollywood credits. According to Servick, his last words were, “I’m done here, they’re coming to take me back.”

Mead is survived by Servick and his sister, Peggy Lee.


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