Now, the firmâ€™s San Francisco arm has released its first real product in partnership with the wearable tech company Huami: A series of sci-fi-worthy watch faces for the recently released Amazfit Verge smartwatch (which runs about $116 in China).
The bright, wiry interfaces could have been lifted straight out of Iron Manâ€™s own helmet, with data visualizations firing across the screen like lasers. That was very much by design. â€śWhat [Huami] wanted from us was to apply a less restricted approach when it comes to graphics. They wanted to be different [from competitors],â€ť says Marti Romances, a partner at Territory. â€śThey know Apple and Samsung are keeping it very safeâ€¦ For us, the approach was to do whatever we want. Donâ€™t follow any rules. We can go crazy.â€ť
The first design is called Rings. It fits your steps, calories burned, and batteries into concentric circles. The second is called Salkan. It sneaks the userâ€™s last six to eight hours of activity into a tiny line graph on the face, condensing a day of activity into mere millimeters. The final face is Spiked. At first, it appears to be beautiful, pink-and-blue nonsense. In fact, itâ€™s a real-time visualization of the left ventricle and right atrium contracting during your heartbeat, gathered from your pulse. Itâ€™s data overkill, but Romances views it as a responsibility to bring that information forward to the user. â€śThe precision the [watch] achieves, technologically speaking, [is such that] itâ€™d be a waste if we canâ€™t visualize it somehow,â€ť he says. â€śWe have that information, why are we not playing with it?â€ť
Most industrial design and interface design results from the assumption that form follows function; it makes sense that an object is shaped by the way itâ€™s going to be used. Territory operates in exactly the opposite direction. The team comes up with graphics it likes first, then considers how data might be mapped to those visuals. â€śThat way we can disrupt a little bit more,â€ť says Romances. â€śIf you start with restrictions, youâ€™ll never get to the two to three new avenues you can if you start with a different thought process. So letâ€™s start with what we really like, then figure it out.â€ť
Territory learned to operate fluidly when collaborating with Marvelâ€™s film directors and production managers. The firm needs to find an aesthetic that fits the filmâ€™s overall vision first and foremost. Only then can they give logic to the interface theyâ€™ve drawn. Yes, it runs counter to how designers usually work, putting the user first, but Romances believes Territoryâ€™s backwards approach could eventually lead to UI breakthroughs.
At a more minute level, Territory Studioâ€™s product work in Silicon Valley better informs its film work for Hollywood, and vice versa. â€śThereâ€™s lots of work weâ€™ve done with products, but itâ€™s always been on the concept phase, things we canâ€™t talk about,â€ť says Romances, alluding to work the company had recently completed for an augmented reality contact lens. â€śThat, to me, sounds crazier than a script from Marvel. But thatâ€™s the beauty of it.â€ť