View Full Version : Interview with Syd Mead

11 November 2003, 02:34 PM
Hi all,

We recently went to visit Syd Mead at his studio in Pasadena, CA, and also conducted this exclusive interview with the renowned designer, who was the concept artist for Blade Runner, TRON, and more.

>> Read the interview << (
The F-22 promotional poster for Lockheed
Syd Mead with Mark Snoswell, CEO of Ballistic Media (owner of CGTalk and CGNetworks).



11 November 2003, 02:54 PM
owow! thats cool !:thumbsup:

11 November 2003, 02:57 PM
Wow, and he's gonna be in the jury for expose2? Sounds cool. From his site I can see he's in the business for a while now... stunning art. I love Bladerunner.. though I'm not a big fan of his WTC proposal.. kinda big I think, it's not gonna work :)

Thanks Leo!

11 November 2003, 03:20 PM
We are not worthy!
We are not worthy!

We are not worthy!


11 November 2003, 03:20 PM
Yeah! Great interview!

Syd Mead is a true inspiration to me, as well as lots of other folks I'm sure. Nearly 20 years ago I went on a high school art class field trip to a local college where Syd was giving a lecture. I had no idea who the guy was. When that electrifying slideshow started, my whole purpose in life was changed forever. For the first time I saw art as something other than drawing plastic fruit and attending boring, pretentious gallery openings. Here was a man with bold visions made real through sculpted chrome and celluloid narrative. A visual futurist... cool!

Thanks, Syd. :buttrock:

11 November 2003, 03:28 PM
A design master and a true artist:bowdown:

11 November 2003, 03:28 PM
Thank you! He's a huge favourite of mine. I had a scan of one of his paintings as my desktop background for several years. This really made my friday, and I haven't even read the interview yet :D

11 November 2003, 04:06 PM
Cool interview, but i take it Mr Mead wasn't very forthcoming in supplying images?

its similar to his site, he dosent seem to like to show much, you have to buy the books for that pleasure

11 November 2003, 04:48 PM
I 'sold' my first artwork in fifth grade; at ten years old....

Woow..that is amazing :bowdown:

11 November 2003, 06:08 PM

that's all i have to say

11 November 2003, 07:15 PM
i don't reply often to interviews threads but this one is awesome, this man is a really talented guy and one of the most creative artist designer of our times, all my respect sir :buttrock:

11 November 2003, 08:24 PM
Originally posted by Garma
Wow, and he's gonna be in the jury for expose2? Sounds cool. From his site I can see he's in the business for a while now... stunning art. I love Bladerunner.. though I'm not a big fan of his WTC proposal.. kinda big I think, it's not gonna work :)

Thanks Leo!

I agree it is a little big, but it is a step in the right direction. Something very futuristic like that would be awe inspiring!

Oh yeah, the article was really well written, I am jealous that you guys get the opportunity to interview all these wonderful, talented artists. Good job cgnet!

Ed Lee
11 November 2003, 09:12 PM
Yeah, the godfather of Concept Art finally being recognized on the web. He's influenced so many....I highly doubt if any popular concept designers these days weren't influenced by this tremendous artist.

Thank you Syd mead!


11 November 2003, 10:12 PM
What is so cool about Mr. Mead is the way he wears his ties. At first thought I'm thinking he doesn't pay attention to fashion and is sort of an Albert Einstein of design. You might think that with all his design skills he would dress in a futuristic manner though. On the other hand he may be making a conscience decision about the style of tie he wears - a fat full winsor may be back in style 10 years from now.

His description of how well he could draw at an early age makes me think he is a very systematic person who is/was close to being autistic.

I remember in kindergarten drawing stick figures and then adding new lines on the outside of the stick figure to flesh it out and in the end I had full bodied people wearing striped pajamas.

I thought the interview was a little short and it was too bad the same pictures had to be used. You'd think he'd release some 640x480's.

11 November 2003, 10:20 PM
I like the DRGXX picture! Such a novel idea - the man is brilliant.

11 November 2003, 10:22 PM
It was interesting to finally see what Syd Mead looks like. However I didn't gain anything from reading this interview. Most of it was spent by him taking the opportunity to push his books off on fanboys across the globe. I found your Mullins and Feng articles to be much more enlightening and enjoyable.

"Now, I am doing a series of HYPERVAN illustrations featuring my notion of the 'next thing' in luxurious, high-speed, private transport featuring in-wheel induction motors, sealed cabin with RGB laminate with stereo/holographic variable eye-point focus and electro-lastic membrane interior surfaces linked to encephalographic monitoring control system." What does that mean?

"But keep in mind that object-specific realism needs, most of all, some form of coherent idea behind it. Otherwise it becomes merely an experimental exercise and in the hands of well -funded amateurs simply offends the whole idea of 'art."

Ok I take offense to this statement. There are an extremely large number of professional artists on this forum that understand the fundamentals of image making. Whether it be a traditional or digital painting, 3d model or animation, all start with a coherent idea. Even abstract fine art posesses some meaning to the artist regardless of whether or not that meaning can be conveyed to the viewer. So what is he saying? If I'm a traditionally trained award winning oil painter and I experiment with new mediums I am offending the whole idea of art? To say that realism or any form of art requires an idea first is a given. There is always a reason why someone chooses to do what they do. Freshman year art students are all well-funded amateurs who take part in "experimental exercises" everyday in order to improve their skills enough to create strong work that will get them a job upon graduation. There are thousands of concept artists and industrial designers out there that most likely were inspired by Mead but whose work now far surpasses the source of that inspiration. Today's well funded amateur is tomorrows professional.

"and most of all, don't become complacent. " Just out of curiousity, did anyone during the course of the interview see a wacom tablet lying around? If so then great, but if not... I don't know about any of you but I find it astonishing that an image can be created in the computer that mimics the look, the feel and the nuance of 'traditional' hand-drawn, hand-painted artwork. No washing of brushes or inhaling fumes, no drying time or finding a package large enough to fit the painting in so it can be shipped to the client. I've seen digital art that plain sucks and alot that is quite impressive, especially when created by a traditional artist who didn't want to become complacent. I had to speak my mind. Maybe I took it the wrong way. I don't in any way wish to show a lack of respect for his accomplishments. I can only hope for a career half as good as his. That doesn't negate the fact that his words were upsetting.

11 November 2003, 10:53 PM
Re: Eric UNSL.

Well, I have to agree with your first observation. There was a bit of self-advertising that he didn't have to bother us with...

On your second point of...

"But keep in mind that object-specific realism needs, most of all, some form of coherent idea behind it. Otherwise it becomes merely an experimental exercise and in the hands of well -funded amateurs simply offends the whole idea of 'art."

...I percive this statement as "Those who happen to have loads of money and therefore just mess around with a few menu options and produces some 'cool-looking effect' - but had no idea or spirit behind it - are offending the whole point of art".

Say you have a guy who has a really cheap app and produces good work with good ideas etc. Then you have another guy who has enough cash for a more expensive app - which has more features than the budget apps - but just produces effects that can be made instantly from a single menu with no effort behind it. And he puts no effort in at all...

I think this is what he's getting at...I think!

Still, I feel that you are correct to speak your mind - even though Syd Mead is a fantastical artist, he is not the only artist who can make statements. We all have our own opinions about art and others...fair is fair.:thumbsup:

11 November 2003, 12:30 AM
I'm sorry to say that, but I went to Syd lecture at the 3Dfestival, and this guy was soooo pretentious, and self loving, it was incredible...we left after a little while...
even if he has work on great projects, he should learn humility !!! never too late !!!

11 November 2003, 06:05 AM
I didn't know this guy up to now and I don't feel like I wanna... I read the whole article and he was just:

"I'm the best and if you do something different you're not worth to be called an artist. Oh and by the way I make loads of cash and I worked in this- this-this..."

- Sorry if I disturbed any fanboy here.

11 November 2003, 07:57 AM
re: babes comment.

hehe ..... aw i haveto agree, judging only from the article, he seemed alittle self involved ......... lovely art though .... he seems like an idea factory.

what on earth are "RGB laminate" and "electro-lastic membrane interior surfaces" anyhow.

excuse the philistine type comments but thats the way it seemed to me.

11 November 2003, 10:38 AM
i found this mistake i guess

a myriad of products for Phillips N.V. in Holland
it has to be Philips instead of two Ls


(sorry for the bad english)

Âme noire
11 November 2003, 01:07 PM
I didn't read the interview yet. But one fact really bothers me: Why does this god of art have to make propaganda material for the largest weapons manufacturer of the world (Lockheed Martin) if he is that "artistic" and good.

And are his concepts really that great? Of course some of his work went very famous because of really good films, but there are a lot of similiar others, like the guy who designed every little detail of the star wars series.

But as I said I didn't read the interview yet and do not know much about him, only a few thoughts about this strange "it's stylish to fly a warmachine from Lockheed" and some commentaries which made me think about a self-loving guy.

Âme noire
11 November 2003, 01:27 PM
Now I read the thread :)

Sometimes they really don't know, and those jobs are usually nightmares!

He is no artist, sorry if I offend some fans here, but it is his job to be creative and then he complains about being creative. Strange world. :shrug:

11 November 2003, 05:31 PM
Ok, how does an article about Syd Mead turn into a bash on his character and work. I guess there are 2 sides two everything. The whole Yin Yang thing. You either like his work or you dont. You either like the guy or you dont. What many of you are not understanding is this guy has made a career with his artistic style and thinking. Most the people working in his type of industry would love a career that spands 47years of top professional work.

"He is no artist, sorry if I offend some fans here, but it is his job to be creative and then he complains about being creative. Strange world."

If you ever worked with a client that has no clue what he or she wants, it does drive you crazy! Giving complete Creative Control over a project is one thing, but you have to understand when you are getting paid a great deal of money to create something for a client that has no idea what they want, you are left with your own ideas ofcourse. Most the time, the client that works like this has a picture in their head of what they want even if they dont tell you, they want to see your take on it, this can get out of hand as Creativity is limitless, and time is not. Being the artist, you are creating an idea from your own mind for them. This can get messy as two minds never think alike. That is not factoring in the time frame the work needs to get done, budget, and people your working with. As an artist you always want to give your best work, but working in those scenerios can get stressful. You can still be creative with guidlines to work from. You will never see a movie being made without some type of script, outline, plan, etc. Creative freedom is sadly left in the eyes of the ones holding the money.....

I only found out about the guy here within the last couple months, but have known about his work for sometime because of the movies hes been involved with. As an artist, if you want to thrive, you are always selling yourself and your creativity. This article is another way of doing so. You dont walk into an interview for a job holding back, you tell them your are the best at what you do, and have your work prove it, otherwise the other guy gets it. Pablo Picasso was a hated man by many because of his ill treatment to women and his egotisic like attitude, yet he is respected by artists throughout the world because of his work. This is not a comparison between the two, but either you like the guy or you dont. Dont bash his achievements and career if you dont know the guy personally. Opinions are one thing, but leave the "Ive seen better" attitude at home! That doesnt make a man whose part of the expose jury, that may read this, feel any better about a community he is supporting..


11 November 2003, 06:21 PM
I don't want to join in the discussion of what Syd's like as I've not seen him speak nor met him.

But I do just want to say to Âme noire - having a client that doesn't know what they want isn't a ticket to the creative highway, it's one of the worst situations you can be in... Working on a project for X number of days/weeks/months all the time getting feedback like "Hmm, it's good - but we're really looking for something else, but we don't really know what..." - it's a circle of firey hell.

*edit* - Doh! I should really have read SEL's post above mine, he sums it up perfectly...

Âme noire
11 November 2003, 06:38 PM
It was not to my itention to bash his work nor his personality. My only thought about this is, that he is no (or myabe not any more) an artist.

I'm also working together with professionals, and we also have customers that don't know what they want (often they are also even not very supportive to give informations on projects to give guidelines). But this is no real problem because you always should try to force customers to a certain style, because in most cases they don't have an education in design and don't know the impression the work will give on the audience.

But this in common is the way you choose if you beome a designer, you don't have complete creative freedom, but you should know that. By creativity I meant the creativity which is still left after all these guidelines you get if you come into the biz.

What makes me really angry is that he still complains though he has this really cool career he made. (And if he works for customers like Lockheed he only does this for money and no artistic reasons)

Also how he talks about amateurs is not very nice, because there are few which really made their "artistic career" without selling them out , for example Linda Bergkvist who is known everywhere, and that is just her free-time activity.

P.S. I really like this discussion :)

11 November 2003, 06:44 PM
After reading that article... he seems more interested in making money for himself than creating art... :surprised

11 November 2003, 07:29 PM
I have to say that there are quite a few vaild points being made here.

Its unusal to have people to speak out on such a brilliant artist - yet still show him respect where it is due.

I would be a shame to see this turn into a flame war... :thumbsup:

11 November 2003, 10:45 PM
I think the guy is an astounding artist and his work certainly influenced me when I was growing up.

I think what is rubbing people up the wrong way is his discovery that every famous artist has to permanently be on a self-publication trip.

It started with Reinassiance artists moving from their little hick farming villages to Milan and Rome to be in the same circle as their potential patrons.
The whole french 'salon' culture of the 18th,19th century. was made for and populated by artists scrambling up the social ladder, backstabbing their peers along the way.

I don't think he should be admonished too much for publicising himself. Yes, his publicity methods are quite transparent but name any famous living person and I bet it'd be hard to name one that doesn't have some sort of PR machine behind them.

A lot of the comments in this thread remind me of comments about Dali. Nobody could deny Dali was a tecnical genius at generating images but the surrealist movement disowned him for working commercially for rich individuals and large companies like Disney.

My point is I suppose that no artist becomes famous by not blowing their own trumpet in some way.

I will also say - I think he needs to hire a new website designer. Those badly scaled thumbnails on his first page look like the work of a "rich amateur" :p

And thanks for the interview CGNetworks, it's certainly generating some intelligent conversation.

11 November 2003, 11:39 PM
Originally posted by Piata
After reading that article... he seems more interested in making money for himself than creating art... :surprised

So he seems pretty normal!

:p :D

11 November 2003, 12:01 AM
Re: Bliz.

Yeah, I'd like to say well done to CGTalk and Syd Mead for that cool( though slightly flawed ) interview.

Keep up the good work, guys!:thumbsup:

11 November 2003, 04:54 AM
Although he came across a little pompous I enjoyed the article. Personally just because I don't care for a personality doesn't mean his art is not art it just means I don't want to be best friends. Regardless of his intentions his art envocates feelings in me that without knowing his personality I would be drawn to therefore his work is art. Once art is created it is no longer the artist idea it is the interpetation of his idea making his personality irrelevant. Also although I would not work for lockhead people are entitled to a diff opinion that doesn't make them wrong or bad in general, I just don't agree. Anyway a pretty okay article I would like a little more insite into his processes but that is just prefrence

11 November 2003, 09:24 AM

11 November 2003, 12:01 PM
I don't know I might be a little egostistacle if I was one of the greatest concept artists of all time :bowdown:

Though over raw originality of ideas I would take the Comic book artist Juan Giminez of MetaBarons over Syd Mead..just my own personal opnion :D

11 November 2003, 12:55 PM
syn the god artist :bowdown: the massiv dog race nocked me off the ground :drool:

good interview

12 December 2003, 06:05 AM
This interview is ABOUT Syd... He gave insight on how he thinks and what gets the job done. He seemed pretty real with the "scared shitless"comment. One of the best concept illustrators out there!:bowdown:

12 December 2003, 07:44 AM
very inspiring:thumbsup:

12 December 2003, 08:14 PM
Re: Igorstshirts.

Quite true. I think we'd be dissapointed if he was reading from a script!:beer:

12 December 2003, 01:06 AM
I would have liked to see more of his art in this article instead of the same images reused. This would have helped me become more familiar with his style and given me a better idea of what he has done. For 47 years of work i dont think that the images could represent his artistic range.

12 December 2003, 12:11 PM
good! very good!!:thumbsup:

12 December 2003, 12:17 PM
:thumbsup: :)

Mojo Rizen
12 December 2003, 01:54 PM
I found the article of interest, his theory, a bit of work, and some self promotion. You have to do it all when you work client to client. Show your client some work AKA portfolio, be it printed or digital. Tell them what you can offer them, and in turn see what they are looking for.

Conceptual art is something people over look quite often. Not so much in the art and design community, but some of the general public. They see all the glam on the big screen, but don’t know how it got to that point.

As a designer you have to eat, there for you have to sell. Some just go about it with a bit more of a softer touch. There are a lot of personalities in this world, and if you don’t like on, but like their work, you can still enjoy their work with out listening to the person.

As a general into article on Syd Mead I thought it was a good base. Maybe a more in depth article in the future would be interesting. Now depending on how much he likes to “give away” explaining technique etc. would be up to him.

You can learn by studying, doing, and having a bit of guidance never hurts. I do agree with his thoughts on how critical the Idea is. Now you do need the skills to build the idea, but that can come with time and hard work.

12 December 2003, 07:27 PM
As a designer, I think his art is amazing.
As a person, he seems incredibly pretentious. Whether or not he is an amazing designer, he could still show some humility, and most other amazing artists I have talked to do. Just an opinion though!

CGTalk Moderation
01 January 2006, 08:00 PM
This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.