Syd Mead, the visual futurist and concept artist best know for his work on films like Blade Runner, Aliens and Tron, has a new film out – A Future Imagined. This one, however, lasts all of seven minutes and plays primarily on Vimeo where it’s been viewed nearly 100,000 times in the week and a half since it’s been uploaded.
No doubt Mead has a lot of fans and followers. Car buffs admire his futuristic look at transportation. Architects analyze his buildings. Urban planners consider ideas based on his view of evolving cities. And, of course, set designers study his visionary film work.
But it might be wise for anyone in the advertising and marketing business to pay attention to his new short. For it’s actually less about the future and more about imagination and the process of creativity.
Of course Mead makes a few predictions. Among them is a suggestion that the future of transportation will be personal mobility systems rather than automobiles as we know them, an idea that makes a lot of sense given that 50 percent of the world’s population will soon live in the confined geography of a city. Let’s hope he’s right on that one.
But more interestingly he talks about what really matters – human imagination. “Imagination is essentially memory. It’s recording and memorizing what you’ve seen so you have experience. Then it’s assembling those experiences in different combinations. This is true whether you’re writing music, code or a new formula. Imagination of the process of arranging knowledge into new formats.” Pretty simple when you think about it.
My favorite part is his reminder that to be creative today we need to be three different people. You have to be the person who’s conceiving the idea that solves a problem in the first place. You have to be a technician in order that your solution is actually usable. And you have to be a detached observer of the first two “people,” able to be objective. “If you can’t do that you will never do good work,” insists Mead. You’ll become too fascinated with what you are doing. “Hubris kill.”
Inside most companies it takes three people to do what Mead suggests one person should do. There’s a problem solver or designer; a creative technologist of programmer; and a creative director or decision maker.
But I think he’s on to something suggesting that we have to be all three things ourselves. Or at least try. If nothing more it will make us better collaborators, closer to that T-shaped person that so many companies now want. What do you think? Does Syd Mead have the future definition of a creative person right?