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Building BlueBook: The Design Behind "Ex Machina's" Super Search Engine

Territory Studios designed the largest (fictional) search engine in the world.

BlueBook is ubiquitous in Alex Garland's new psychological sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, something like Google or Facebook today. The plot ignites when Bluebook founder and CEO Nathan (Oscaar Isaac) invites his employee, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), to his mountain country home/research facility to evaluate the AI of a new creation, the feminine android Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Garland enlisted the help of Territory Studio, the interface designers behind the spaceship controls of Guardians of the Galaxy and the computers in Jupiter Ascending, to design the website that Nathan made his billions on. "This was a special challenge; crafting realistic UI, rather than futuristic sci-fi graphics, brings the logic and functionality of our work under greater scrutiny within the film, and we have to be that much more disciplined with the ideation process," Territory Creative Director and Co-founder David Sheldon-Hicks tells The Creators Project. He and his team examined how web design trends could evolve over the next 15 years, imagining an interface that could wipe the floor with them all. 

"We made a rule to avoid any similarities, as no one wanted the work to feel iterative," Hicks continues. "It is very important to understand that we don’t want anyone to think that this is a complete rethink of current UX and UI approaches, because it is absolutely not; it is a suggestion designed to work in this cinematic context."

Hicks goes on to say that BlueBook draws from Ex Machina's overall modernist, minimalist aesthetic to "create a credible OS that sits comfortably within the environments, supporting the narrative, emotional tone and actors performance...When it appears on a screen, we hoped that BlueBook feels right for the level of sophistication that the film requires, yet familiar enough to be credible."

Our recent documentary, Examining Our Fear of AI, goes in-depth about the making of Ex Machina, out in theaters April 16.

See more of Territory's work on their website and check out our previous coverage below.

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