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Futurist Extraordinaire Syd Mead has been designing futuristic concepts for corporations and the movies (including Blade Runner and Tron) since the '60s.
How do you define yourself: designer or artist?
I define myself as a designer... who also is an artist. I treat each capacity as a separate (but not unrelated!) skill set.
What is your point of view to design?
Design is the arrangement of element as those elements may be as simple as a geometric collage or as complex as the design of a supersonic jet liner, a super yacht, a major high-rise building or the composition of a symphony.
Designing for real world and also for cinema world? Do they seem similar? Which one do you prefer?
Designing for the 'real world' is actually 'easier' than designing for cinema. Here is why. In the 'real world' manufacturers have the opportunity to market (read 'educate') the final design result before the public gets to actually buy it.
What is the joy of design?
The joy of design is matching wits with the challenge of the moment. I have been designing graphics, products, transport solutions, movie props, sets, vehicles and scenic design since l received my first paycheck for my ideas and design skill in 1950. I work very hard to make sure that my methodology is correct, that my analysis of the real problem is accurate and importantly, whether the client is intelligent enough to appreciate my efforts.
What inspires you most?
I am inspired by the thrill of the problem presented to me. (In the general question environment of 'design'). I keep a large mental catalogue of memories, sensations and defiantly scenic realities. Matching my skill to a client's needs always gets my creative juices flowing.
I subscribe to several general interest publications that keep me abreast of technological, social and political realities. I read about three or four periodicals a week, plus the occasional recreational science fiction and narrative editions. I enjoy a world-wide professional visibility and receive notices and information from other designers all over the world. This keeps me aware of what they (the world out there!) are doing so that I can scale my efforts, my ideas and my knowledge base to be current and ahead of the curve.
Does design influence your lifestyle?
Absolutely. I would no more sit in a frumpy, stupid chair and relax than I would eat dirt. The things I buy for my house, the cars I drive, the places I patronize must have some element of design intrigue. Otherwise, I stay home; a home I have arranged to suit my designer tastes.
Do design and art support each other?
I believe they do. Think of design as 'artifice', a word that precedes 'art'. Conversely, my 'art' devoid of ?artifice' or 'design' is junk. This describes about 85% of the laborious nonsense one sees in 'art' galleries.
Will the definition of design change in the future?
The definition of 'design' depends on the observer, the culture in which the design is appreciated and the means by which the design is realized. Design in medieval times was solely the result of laborious craftsman working solo or in concert with others. Design currently can be the result of a computer aided system being guided by a designer but being manufactured, realized and/or displayed on an rgb screen. Design has changed already from the classic meaning, and in the future? We will see more and more that 'design' becomes pure idea, the idea being ?realized' on demand for either actual utility use, simple visual analysis or perhaps only as an artistic presentation. Instant realization will convert the 'Idea' to 'reality? on demand. Already, the data to 'make' a design is actually more valuable than what the data directs to make.
What should the priorities of designers be?
Syd Mead: Every designer must know what they want to do, and how they want to do it. This produces a 'signature' which, if the first two items are defined, can be recognized in the final work. Training to be a designer means that you learn methodologies and skill techniques that enable your personal vision, your personal taste to be applied to your design solutions. Designers that don't know what they are doing produce utterly forgettable drek. Designers who continuously repeat one central idea become, in the end, caricatures of themselves and eventually ?go out of style' because they make the mistake of thinking 'result' instead of 'raison d'être.'
For you, how does it feel like to define the future? Does it seem clear to foresee?
I do not claim to 'define the future?. What I do is to think about why things are the way they are now, combine that awareness with how things were, are now and may be brought into reality. This defines the look' of 'future' stuff. My scenarios are fanciful guesses that are the result of combining several layers of awareness and supposition.
Do you design the interface of the future or the future itself?
A fascinating question. The 'interface' of the future is everyones' perception of reality. The future (see above) is the moment-by-moment result of the world's population demands, concerns and appreciation of what they consider 'reality'. Reality for some is absolute fantasy for others. The interface of the future demands a certain level of common appreciation of reality. Without this, the world remains in a terrifying struggle of one reality trying to eliminate others that they don't believe in. Until there is some intelligent realization and appreciation or a common reality, we will not end the world's constant waste of brain power and social energy.
Which one will influence the world in the future? Local culture or a common global culture?
Local culture constitutes reality, even in different parts or the same country. The only common global culture at this point in mankinds' pathetic attempts at social organization is the fact that we are all of the same species. What makes some animals and others civilized is the 'local' appreciation or reality.
Your future plans?
I plan to die with a detail brush or a pen in my hand. My future plans are to continue enjoy being who I am, to be aware of the huge gap between rationality and fanaticism, to arrange for my financial security as l get older and to continue to enjoy the company of young people who are like an elixir for me. I feel extremely fortunate that I relate very well with people in their teens and twenties.
The culture you appreciate?
Country you want to live in?
The cuisine you enjoy?
Drink you prefer?
Painter who influences you?
Author you like?
Book genre you prefer?
Movie you like?
Film director you like?
Music you listen to?
Design you like?
Designer you respect?
This interview is made in 2003. Designophy ©
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