24 July, 2008

Blade Runner, Syd Mead and the Future

Just read this interesting interview with Ridley Scott, from last October's Wired, in which he talks about the influence of Blade Runner on design and particularly architecture.

I think of Ridley Scott as a kind of cinematic designer - dispassionate, cool, technical (he came from an advertising background) - and that seems justified by many of his early films.

Syd Mead was the concept designer and 'visual futurist' who created a lot of the famous vehicles and street scenes for
Blade Runner, Aliens and many other films and computer games.

Mead is more or less credited with inventing contemporary concept design and influencing everybody from Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) to, well, everybody. For example, Imagine FX did a big feature about Syd Mead last month, with workshops about how to create a Mead/ Blade Runner-esque scene in Photoshop and so on.

Of the aesthetic in Blade Runner, Mead has said:
"We called the whole look 'retro deco.' What I did in my imagination was to mash together every architectural style I could think of. So, I violated architectural motif, and it's funny because architects love that film. Maybe it's cathartic for them."

"Because it's a wholly fabricated world, and the typical thing to do would have been to give it one style. Again, the point is, when you go into the future, you don't start from zero, you take everything along with you. You have to have old stuff to overlay the new stuff. And that's part of what gives "Blade Runner" it's unusual look."
While I love Mead's drawing, with its profuse detail and interest - and his
Blade Runner paintings, which evoke the atmosphere evident in the film - most of his gouache painting is pretty awful; lurid, 1960s, Sci-Fi confectionary, full of bubble furniture and naked people wandering about (as you do in the future).

Although Mead's Blade Runner design is exceptional, it has also been given exceptional prominence in his work.