H.R. Giger - designer of the Alien Xenomorph and the Space Jockey

15 March 2023
Hans Rudolf "H.R." Giger was a Swiss artist and designer best known for his work on the Alien film franchise. 

His dark and surreal style, characterized by biomechanical imagery and a fascination with the macabre, left an indelible mark on the world of sci-fi and horror.

Giger's impact can be seen not only in the Alien films, but in a wide range of other media. His distinctive style has influenced everything from music videos to fashion, and his imagery has been referenced in countless works of art and pop culture.

One of the most striking things about Giger's work is its ability to evoke a sense of unease and discomfort in viewers. His designs for the Alien creature are a prime example of this. The Xenomorph is a truly horrifying creation, with its elongated head, multiple sets of jaws, and insectoid limbs. The creature's design is both repulsive and fascinating, and it has become one of the most iconic monsters in film history.

In an interview with Starlog Magazine in 1979, Giger said, "I always wanted to create a monster with a biomechanical feeling. I like the biomechanical style because it's closer to nature...You see, I think it's important to understand what the Alien is: biomechanoid, not purely organic. That's why it looks so strange."

Giger also spoke about the design of the Xenomorph's head in the same interview, saying, "The creature should have a head like a human skull, but with more teeth and more power...The human skull is something that everyone can recognize. It's familiar. If you take the teeth and eyes out, you still have something that's quite familiar, but if you then put in some other things, like a large tongue or a more pointed head, then it becomes strange."


Later in life, Giger expressed some ambivalence about the commercialization of his designs, saying in a 2009 interview with The Independent, "I'm afraid that my design ideas have gained a kind of popularity. They have been used in amusement parks, boutiques, gambling casinos, vulgar things...The worst are the T-shirts with the Alien creature, which proliferate everywhere. But perhaps it's better than having no influence at all."

The iconic Space Jockey, also known as the Engineer, in the original 1979 Alien film was also designed by the Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who also designed the Xenomorph creature. Giger's designs for the Space Jockey were inspired by his fascination with ancient Egyptian and Aztec art, as well as his interest in biomechanics and surrealism.

The Space Jockey is a mysterious and enigmatic character is only seen briefly in the original film, as a giant fossilized being seated in a mysterious cockpit on a derelict spaceship. The Space Jockey's appearance and purpose are left largely unexplained, adding to the sense of dread and mystery in the film.

Giger's design for the Space Jockey was both eerie and beautiful, featuring intricate details like a ribcage-like structure on the creature's chest and an elongated skull that was reminiscent of the Xenomorph's head. The creature's size, at over 26 feet tall, also contributed to its imposing and otherworldly appearance.

The Space Jockey has since become an iconic element of the Alien franchise, with the character and its backstory explored in greater depth in later films, novels, and comic books. The Space Jockey's design has also inspired a number of artists and designers, with its surreal and biomechanical elements finding their way into a range of media and genres.

H.R. Giger designed the Facehugger creature in the 1979 film Alien. The Facehugger is a small, spider-like creature that is responsible for implanting the Alien embryo inside a host's body. Giger's design for the Facehugger was another example of his signature biomechanical style, featuring long, bony fingers and a long, snake-like tail.

Giger's design for the Facehugger was initially met with some resistance from the film's production team, who were concerned about the creature's overtly sexual appearance. However, director Ridley Scott was impressed with Giger's design and fought to keep it in the film. The Facehugger has since become an iconic element of the Alien franchise, and its design has been referenced and adapted in numerous films and other media.

Scott first discovered H.R. Giger's work through a book of his art that was given to him by writer Dan O'Bannon, who was working with Scott on the script for Alien. Scott was immediately struck by Giger's unique and haunting artistic style, and he saw potential for his designs to bring a new level of terror and strangeness to the film.

Scott and O'Bannon approached Giger to create designs for the Alien creature, and Giger eagerly accepted the opportunity. Giger's designs, which featured his signature biomechanical style and surrealist elements, proved to be a perfect fit for the film's vision, and they helped to create the distinctive look and feel of the Alien universe.

In an interview with Cinefantastique Magazine in 1979, Scott spoke about his collaboration with Giger, saying, "Giger is an extraordinary talent. He's completely mad in some respects, but I find him fascinating...I needed someone who could translate what I had in mind, and he was the only one who seemed to have that kind of vision."

Giger's influence goes beyond the Alien films. His designs have appeared in other movies, including Species and Poltergeist II, and he worked on a number of video games, including Dark Seed and Dark Seed II. His style has also been referenced in music, with artists like Tool and Korn incorporating Giger-inspired visuals into their album covers and music videos.

Perhaps the most surprising area where Giger's influence can be seen is in fashion. His biomechanical designs have been used by a number of fashion designers, including Alexander McQueen and Jean-Paul Gaultier, and his imagery has appeared in numerous fashion shoots and runway shows.

Overall, Giger's legacy is a testament to the power of creativity and imagination. His unique vision helped to create one of the most iconic monsters in film history, and his influence can still be seen in contemporary sci-fi and horror. His work continues to inspire and captivate audiences, and his impact on the world of art and design is undeniable.


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My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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