Syd Mead

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Here are some high­lights of the visual fu­tur­ist’s fireside chat…

The dif­fer­ence be­tween work­ing on cars and movies

The auto in­dus­try was eas­ier. In the movies, you’ve got to make ev­ery­one in the au­di­ence know the pur­pose of the prop you’ve de­signed in one in­stance, or you dis­rupt the flow of the film.

On be­ing a visual fu­tur­ist

The tools will change, but what’s most valu­able is the idea. Sci­ence fic­tion is re­al­ity ahead of sched­ule. If it’s a re­ally good idea, then even­tu­ally it’ll come true.

On his cur­rent US art ex­hi­bi­tion

We’d like for it to come to Europe, start­ing with London. You’ll prob­a­bly never see 50 pieces of highly de­tailed gouache in one place ever again! The tech­nique is just not used. It’s la­bo­ri­ous to learn.

Re­cent film work

I worked with Neill Blomkamp on Ely­sium, on con­cepts for the Torus space­ship. I’d done this be­fore, years ago for Na­tional Ge­o­graphic. An ar­ti­cle on liv­ing in space. And that in­spired Neill to speak to me.

On in­vent­ing the smart car

I re­mem­ber do­ing tiny car de­signs for decades, for Play­boy and Philips. I’d never get in one on a free­way. I like a car with a me­ter and a half in front of me at least.

His con­tem­po­raries

Ralph McQuar­rie had an amaz­ing abil­ity to show scale. He was a de­light­ful man, very softly spo­ken. He’s gone, and the tragic as­pect was that he had Parkin­son’s to­wards the end of his life and he couldn’t draw. But for years he would do a large wa­ter­colour or gouaches ev­ery year and cut them into pieces and you’d get a piece of this over­all paint­ing. It was won­der­ful!

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