Tag Archives: Syd Mead

Evangelizing Design Fiction and topping it off with Syd Mead and Blade Runner

The last two weeks have been rapid-fire. I presented my thesis research at two different universities as part of the interview process for Assistant Professor design positions. The last one was, coincidentally, was in the precise location of the 2013 Emerge Conference. I had nothing to do with planning it this way it’s just how things worked out. In fact, I was so buried in the preparation for these interviews that the Emerge Conference dropped completely off my radar screen. So, as I am presenting on one part of the campus, about the idea of design fiction as a serious area of design research, Bruce Sterling and Brad Allenby, pivotal voices in future thinking, are presenting in another. It just seemed weird, especially since I had no idea it was going on until I got into town. Sterling, of course, is credited with creating the neologism known as “design fiction,” and though he probably has no idea that I exist, I think we are watching closely from similar perspectives. Note the similarities with his recent blog and my post from a few weeks ago.

It was an exhausting day of meetings and presentations, so I was anxious to get back to the hotel and decompress. Despite this I could not pass up the opportunity to trek across campus for a 6:30 screening of the digitally remastered 1987 classic, Blade Runner, in an awesome little theater with a shake-your-chair sound system. After the film, who else but Syd Mead shows up to field questions. Mead, complete with sunglasses, says he’s 79 years old, but there are no signs that he’s slowing down. He’s sharp as a tack and a bit feisty. Mead said that he is quite comfortable with revising his concepts or with ideas being outright rejected, as long as he gets paid. I think that some of the students saw his ‘show-me-the-money’ attitude as a bit arrogant, but Mead is a design and concept-art legend, he’s been working in the profession for a long time, and knows the way great designs and great art would rarely come to life without free enterprise. So, while some students may see the idea of commerce as a tool of capitalist oppression, Syd gets paid. Good for him.

All that being said, the presentations over the past couple of weeks went well, I think. I’m thinking that close to 100 turned out for my last one. Most of the comments were positive and encouraging. I may even have a few more converts to the web comic, but after the rigorous interview processes I have no idea where all of this will end up. Maybe none of it will turn into gainful employment, but they all add up to great experiences and the chance to share ideas with smart people.

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Some source images for graphic novel metropolis

I thought I would share with you some of the source images for Hong Kong 2, the metropolis where my graphic novel takes place. As I have revealed in some previous posts, we’re looking at a mega city on the North American mainland 148 years from now. I don’t want to reveal too many particulars that are central to the narrative but essentially the identity of this city has become a conglomeration of 22nd century architecture mixed in with a hundred years or so of Asian-style city stacking. A trip to Tokyo, or China and you quickly begin to see what happens when you have to stack more and more people into a finite area. Generally, you build higher, connect-on, and do a lot of retro-fitting. In the graphic novel, the high-rise now floats up there around 150 or more floors and that’s where you find the more affluent social groups. The closer you get to the street, it gets poorer, darker and considerably more dangerous. Though this was never touched on (to my recollection) in the movie Blade Runner, I recently saw a piece of promotional video from Ridley Scott that featured interviews with Scott, Douglas Trumbull, and Syd Mead that discussed much of the art direction for the film classic. Apparently they had a similar dystopia in mind.


Here are some images I collected from the web and my travels that give a peek into the kind of city texture I’m thinking of.

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