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Syd Mead, sci-fi visual artist known for Blade Runner and Tron, dies at 86

The legendary Mead once called science fiction "reality ahead of schedule."

This conceptual art of Disney's Tomorrowland is by artist Syd Mead. 

Legendary visual effects artist, futurist and industrial designer Syd Mead died Monday at age 86, his manager Roger Servick confirmed to Deadline. Mead had been battling lymphoma, Servick said. 

The artist is best known for his concept art for sci-fi movies Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, Aliens, Tron, Star Trek the Motion Picture, Johnny Mnemonic, Mission Impossible 3, Elysium and Tomorrowland. In the '90s, Mead also supplied designs for Japanese anime series,Yamato 2520 and Turn A Gundam.


Blade Runner concept art by Syd Mead. 

Syd Mead

In addition to TV and movies, Mead worked as an industrial and architectural designer for such companies as FordVolvo, Intercontinental Hotels and Honda.  

Mead's designs for both film and TV defined how sci-fi could eventually lead to real-world designs. "I've called science fiction 'reality ahead of schedule,'" Mead said in a New York Times interview in 2008. 

In May, CNET's Roadshow  featured recently found old sketches by Mead of futuristic-looking Volvo trucks. Mead worked as a designer for a time at Volvo Trucks, though his version of the vehicles never saw production.


These Volvo trucks sketches by Syd Mead would be right at home in Blade Runner. 

Liam Keating/Syd Mead/Volvo Trucks

Fans flooded Twitter with tributes to the beloved concept artist. 

"A legend has left us today," one user tweeted. "His vision changed our culture, our collective perception of what is possible, and inspired so many of us today." Tweeted another fan: "Without him, the visual language of science fiction wouldn't have been the same."

And another wrote, "Few have had the impact on how we visualize the future that he did; cyberpunk as a genre to a large extent has a look codified by him. Was always a joy to watch something with his touch -- most recently for me Yamato 2520, where his designs stood out."