140-163 SYD MEAD / FUTURE MACHINES
MONIKA BIELSKYTE / could you tell me about how you envision the future of concept design?
SYD MEAD / In terms of design craft, it is going to stay fashionable and that will become the new thing because somebody had to make it— where, as we crossed a line, I don’t know how long ago, the data to make something was more valuable than the thing it made. That happened maybe 20 years ago. So the data stream that describes something to make it is more valuable than this, the thing it made. The thing made now is only proof that something was correct, that’s solid and correct when you think of it that way.
Concept design depends on a valid concept. If the concept is not clear to all involved in the exploitation of the concept, the project is doomed from the start. Concept design as a valid starting point of design will remain a valid technique as long as there are practitioners intelligent enough to appreciate what it actually is...
MB / from working for a design studio, how did you go into something that was purely imaginary— working in film?
SM / Paramount was going to make Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the first Star Trek movie, and John Dexter, who already had an academy award for inventing the motion control system, was assigned the task of doing post production for some of the props for the film— And so he called me and said ‘would you like to work on a Science Fiction movie’ and I had just moved out here, that was in 1978, and I moved out in ’75, so three years later. I was busy all the time and I guess I just said ‘sure’; I don’t remember anymore.
I ended up having a meeting at the Central Plaza Hotel and they said ‘well, here’s the problem’— and the problem was to invent this thing at the end, the climax of the film. And all they had done to this point was sort of model this thing, which was like a camera track over and around with a big hook on the end and that’s when I thought ‘that’s really stupid’. I didn’t tell them that but, I thought ‘that’s really dumb, It doesn’t have any character’, so I invented the V’Ger entity. So that was my first foray into film and post-production— by invitation.
The book that you wanted to get the illustrations from for your magazine, it came out in 1979 and this image, which was done for U.S. Steel, is the one that Ridley Scott saw and he said ‘this is what I want Blade Runner to look like’. That was the impetus for getting set-up.
I had the first meeting with Ridley Scott and Michael Deeley. I was the first person to be hired for the BLADE RUNNER production staff. The meeting went smoothly, I contacted my attorney and after just a few weeks of negotiation and receipt of the shooting script, Ridley and I got along famously. I did not work ‘on lot’; I would show my solutions to Ridley, and Lawrence G. Paull, the production designer, by appointment and then return to my studio to produce designs for the next meeting.
Working for movies, it’s just like doing work for a corporation, there is no difference in the design process. The fact that it doesn’t necessarily need to function doesn’t really matter. If it’s never made and the client is happy, and it could be made— like, when I worked for Ford Motor Company, I would design something for the automobile, and only once was the design okayed and it went to engineering. It was up to somebody else to figure out how to make it. That’s how big design corporations work. In the movie world, it has to look like it could be made, and you’re assuming that certain processes that we maybe don’t have now will be invented so it could eventually be made. It has to be very logically constructed, otherwise the audience could pick that up. To convince your audience, you have to envisage the usage of a particular piece of machinery, not just the looks...]
/ EXCERPT FROM A TEXT BASED ON A CONVERSATION BETWEEN SYD MEAD, ROGER SERVICK, SAM SPENSER, & MONIKA BIELSKYTE, LOS ANGELES / FEBRUARY 2012. ENTIRE 24-page ARTICLE ONLY IN THE PRINTED EDITION OF SOME/THINGS MAGAZINE CHAPTER006 / THE DARK LABYRINTH