Of all the concept art created for science-fiction movies Ron Cobb's is arguably the most influential. I've lost count of the number of oily steel hexagonal corridors in these movies that are direct descendants of the designs Cobb came up with for the decks of the Nostromo in Alien.
Not many concept artists can boast of a portfolio of work like Cobb's, stretching over a nearly thirty year period, starting with John Carpenter's Dark Star and taking in Star Wars, the Alien movies and more recently Titan A.E.
His concepts are so satisfying to look at because everything looks as if it can work. Everything looks functional, so that the audience believes in the design and believes that what they are viewing is real, if only for the time period of the movie.
RON COBB: I resent films that are so shallow they rely entirely on their visual effects, and of course science-fiction films are notorious for this. I've always felt that there's another way to do it: a lot of effort should be expended toward rendering the environment of the spaceship, or space travel, whatever the fantastic setting of your story should be - as convincingly as possible, but always in the background. That way the story and the characters emerge and they become more real. If you were to set a story on an oceon liner, there would be bits of footage to explain what the ship was like docked or at sea, but it would remain in the background of the story. It should be the same with science-fiction.
I'm sort of a frustated engineer because I have lots of opinions about how certain problems could be solved using present technology or even speculating about near-future technology. So in working on a film I like to take this challenge and design a spaceship as though it were absolutely real, right down to the fuel tolerances, the centers of gravity, the way the engines function, radiation shielding, whatever. And after I do that, I like to deal with how I can take this idea and hammer, bend, and twist it into something that will be appropriate to the film. Films are ideal for at least demonstrating the premise. It's an excitement I have to communicate.
It was inevitable that my interests in architecture, engineering, science, fantasy, adventure and art would lead to the movies - the technological re-creation of dreams. The recent enthusiasm for elaborate, expensive science-fiction and fantasy films was my ticket into the industry. i was clearly possessed of a speciality much in demand. It was literally my dreams becoming my reality.