Syd Mead (TRAN, ’59)
“In the future, transportation design will take advantage of autonomous Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), morphological material properties and the advent of the total organic transport device.”
The career of visual futurist Syd Mead began after high school graduation with a job at Alexander Film Co. doing animation cell inking, character origination and background illustration. After a serving in the U.S. Army, Mead studied Transportation Design at Art Center and was hired by Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Styling Studio after graduating in 1959. He produced corporate promotional books for the Hansen Company, then founded his own company in 1970. After moving to Southern California in 1975, he became involved in the motion picture, television and electronic game industries. Mead is best known for the creation of the V’Ger for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, followed by work on Bladerunner, TRON and Aliens.
What led you to a career in transportation design?
I did not decide to pursue a career in transportation design specifically. I liked cars, and drew them from the time I was 3 years old. My gravitation toward drawing cars (and other transportation modes) generated from interest, it was not a deliberate plan.
What do you see as your most exciting career achievement?
The facility to analyze, specify and reassemble any challenge without any feelings of trepidation or inadequacy.
What do you think has been the most significant development in Transportation Design in recent years?
The automobile has become several steps closer to the organic transport entity due to rapid advances in electronic wizardry and material evolution. Design and style functions as an overlay onto a combination of available technological possibilities. Machine intelligence has been a significant addition to traditional transport designs.
Where do you see transportation design going in the future?
The challenge will be to satisfy marketing imperatives and consumer interest while at the same time infusing the end product with an expert level of competence. In the future, transportation design will take advantage of autonomous Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), morphological material properties and the creation of a total organic transport device. We will have essentially completed the cycle from horse to personal transport entity.
What is your advice for recent graduates in the transportation design field?
Stay abreast of advancements in production techniques and design methodologies. You will be hired for your unique view of design coupled with the knowledge of what is actually possible, both as a future view and as a current adaptation of future possibility overlaid onto production reality. The design trick is to always suggest that more is going on than is actually possibleâ€”it is called “new.”
What kind of car do you drive?
I currently divide my driving time between three vehicles. For daily and work-related driving I drive a 2007 Cadillac DTS sedan, my personal car is a 2003 Chrysler Sebring convertible and on special occasions, I drive a 1972 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron four-door hardtop.