Reimagining “Terminator 2’s” Iconic User Interfaces Through the Power of Adobe XD
Using Adobe XD to redesign stills from "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" sets a new precedent for XD's UX and motion graphic user interface capabilities. Plus, download the free Terminator 2 UI kit to experience it for yourself.
Territory Studio is known for its futuristic design work on films such as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “The Martian,” “Ex Machina,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and numerous other blockbusters. But being tasked with reimagining some of the user interfaces from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was a unique challenge even for them, especially using software they hadn’t worked with before.
With the intention of showcasing the power of Adobe XD and demonstrating the potential of UX design beyond app and website design, Adobe partnered with Territory to reimagine two iconic stills from “Terminator 2” using Adobe XD. The results were eye-opening for Territory and Adobe alike, revealing a new realm of potential for designers working in film UX while inspiring new functionalities for XD’s community.
As John Connor would say, “The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”
When “T2” came out back in 1991, the head-up display graphics that were displayed from the Terminator’s point of view were visualizations of the future. The Terminator would scan an object, like a gun or motorcycle, for example, and viewers could glean information as the Terminator processed it. Fast-forward 27 years, and the capabilities of screen graphics have dramatically evolved through innovation in modern technology. What was once futuristic is now possible through today’s technology.
“Despite the limitations [the original designers] had, they still sent a message that this machine is reading the environment and getting data from it. So what we wanted to do was treat this in a way that we could push that quality and intricacy of the design without losing the core proposition of those graphic screens, which was to get data from these vehicles and other surroundings,” said Marti Romances, creative director and co-founder of Territory Studio.
“These are things that we were looking at as an impossible thing, a futuristic thing five years ago, and now they are part of our life,” he said.
The result is an homage to director James Cameron’s original vision layered with the technology and practices of today. The combination produces an augmented reality effect as seen in this before and after GIF of the Terminator reaching for his infamous gun.
There’s also this one showing the before and after from the Terminator scanning motorcycles:
Looking at data through the Terminator’s eyes
When Adobe set out to create XD, the goal was to create a prototyping platform specifically for the UX/UI designers of today, many of whom work on prototypes for user interfaces and web/mobile applications. After working with Territory Studio on this project, the team sees opportunities that hadn’t been considered before.
“This project definitely started to open up all kinds of new possibilities for XD,” said Talin Wadsworth, creative director and a founding team member of Adobe XD. “I started thinking about features that were really tailored to the work that Territory is doing — different features, different workflows, and maybe in the future more augmented reality prototyping, or virtual reality prototyping. It’s really shifted my perspective and what my hopes and dreams are for what XD can be in the future.”
Challenges? No problemo!
But the “Terminator 2” task was not without its challenges for Territory — the biggest of which was that Adobe XD was largely new to the team and the project forced them to learn on the go. What they didn’t expect was for it to disrupt their entire approach to design along the way.
“We were asked to use something new, and we ended up finding that that something new could actually be saving a lot of time and improve our capabilities and reaction time when designing some of these sets for films and other projects,” Marti said.
For example, he mentioned how the team typically uses vector-based software such as Adobe Illustrator to scale freely without sacrificing image quality. They discovered that Adobe XD has not only has this functionality, but numerous other powerful built-in tools that found themselves at home in the motion picture setting.
“We discovered changing one element of the accent panel, it could be typography, a font, or a color, and that automatically affects all of the designs you have in that film project. Having that way of quickly populating sets of designs was a powerful tool for us,” Marti said.
Designers are crucial to imagining our future
One of the project’s greatest effects was its ability to showcase the role designers play in imagining the future of technology, including what it looks like, how it functions, and what it’s capable of.
Talin, for example, grew up immersing himself in formative sci-fi experiences like “Star Trek,” “Terminator,” and “Aliens” and has since become an advocate for the role designers, artists, filmmakers, and writers play in dreaming about what our society, culture, and technology might look like in the future.
“They really do provide kind of a guiding light, a beacon for technologists, engineers, and designers,” Talin said. “I think it’s really important in design to lead, especially as we’re entering into these areas of augmented reality and virtual reality, where these experiences are clearly uncharted.”
He has no doubt about how the things we see in science fiction movies impact and shape the technology of today, but in doing these collaborative projects Talin’s biggest takeaway is how much there is left to be explored for new designers and experiences professionals alike.
“It’s not only up to us,” Marti says. “Anyone can have a go at inventing something. We are all inventors. For people to put their ideas out there and to do what they would like to do even if it sounds crazy, you never know how that will influence and shape the future. That’s something very powerful. Create new things, go crazy, and have great ideas. You never know if that’s going to become a reality.”
Download the Terminator 2 UI kit from Adobe XD
We’re at a time in UX design when we’re developing best practices and standards of doing things, but if this project has taught us anything it’s how important it is to remember to dream, to push past the bounds of experience, and start to imagine the future.
To celebrate, we’re unveiling a “T2”-themed UI kit made with and for Adobe XD available to download for free.
“What was really exciting for me was to see Territory use XD to do something so visually rich and dynamic, stretch our ideas of what UX design is today, and really push it into the future of experiences,” Talin said.
“We hope that the UI kit prototype and the case study of Territory using XD to design and build this may inspire designers to start thinking about what comes beyond screens and start designing some of their own experiences — possibly through augmented reality in the future — and in their own work today.”