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Glasgow, United Kingdom
An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

10 November 2012

Blade Runner Sketchbook

It ocurred to me not long ago that I gather so much material but somehow fail to find the time to upload it on here, or to actually go over it properly. My Evernote account is bursting with artists, pictures, books, interviews and journals; all relevant to what I'm doing. The usual train of thought is, "Oh that's a nice little article. I'll put it over here and look over it later". That later never comes. Or, should I say, never came until now.

No one is better in create authentic, aesthetically beautiful pieces than the industry legend, Syd Mead. He was the creative force behind a lot of designs for Blade Runner, Tron, Aliens, Johnny Mnemonic and many others. He is currently working on Elysium, a sci fi feature directed by Neill Blomkamp and due to release in 2013.

Unfortunately Mead's collection of artwork relating to his older projects is out of print now and costs over £200 used. However I did manage to dig up some gold on the wild plains of the internet in the form of a sketchbook himself and Ridley Scott produced shortly after the release of Blade Runner. I present to you, Blade Runner Sketchbook (1982), now also out of print and priced at £150, used. I also printed it out for future reference.

The sketchbook is a 95 page paperback filled with pre-production sketches by Syd Mead and Ridley Scott. Everything from the early vehicle concepts to costumes and props.


The main point of the sketchbook is to give a glimpse into the original vision of the film and show the creative obstacles Syd and Scott had to overcome. The book provides an excellent idea of what it takes to make the place seem alive and bring it from a generic sci fi setting into a world that seems completely real. Everything is designed to minute detail. Even the signs and logos in the background we take for granted in the film were designed with a specific purpose in mind.

"The entire look of the film was based on research and carefully thought out principles regarding the future of architecture, transportation, fashion and social behaviour"

In ImagineFX Issue 89 Shane Pierce (lead concept artist on Gears of War 2) supports this view by saying that a great concept piece is one where the design is really thought out. No matter what style it's in, the design shines through.

In conclusion, Blade Runner Sketchbook is a fantastic resource of inspiration and information about the process and the importance of design in concepts. The design must tell a story and not distract from the main narrative. Everything comes tightly together into one and thus creates believability and authentnicity.