See No Evil (Feb 2018) — Territory Studio + Johnny Kelly

Me and a bunch of designers from the studio attended the ninth anniversary edition of the magical motion design event that is See No Evil (a motion design event held bi-monthly in Shoreditch). This month it featured talks from Johnny Kelly and Territory Studio.


David, founder of Territory Studio, started off his talk by explaining what it is they actually do at Territory — finding the sweet spot between story, design and technology. They use technology and UIs as a narrative device. They work on tons of films visualising the future of user interfaces, coming up with new ideas and thinking about user behaviours in an idealistic way.

Their process starts when they receive a script and there is a lot of creative freedom of imagination in it in the start. It can be compared to reading a book and imagining what this other world looks like. Complete freedom.

They then lose a bit of this freedom but gain in collaboration. They work closely with other film departments — influencing things like concept art and adapting their vision to other creators as well.

Interestingly — and I actually didn’t know this—a lot of their work ends up on the actual set once it is developed. It helps set the mood for actors so that they don’t have to work with green screens all the time. However, it also has it’s downsides—like when the shooting schedule suddenly changes and all hell breaks loose.

They recently opened third studio in San Francisco (along with the ones in London and New York) and since the future is basically already here, they get more and more conceptual jobs for future tech innovation projects. One of the recent films they have worked on was to design tactile UI interfaces that tell a story for Blade Runner 2049.


The second speaker was Johnny Kelly, a director at Nexus Studio who — according to himself—has no idea what he’s doing. His work is super versatile and stretches from stop motion to 2D, 3D and live action. I first discovered him in 2013 when I stumbled over his film “The Seed”.

Since then he’s done work for Apple’s healthcare app, Facebook’s celebration of 2 billion users and he did an ad for Chipotle Mexican, which won awards like the Branded Content Lions Grand Prix in Cannes.

After he did this stop motion ad he received calls from Hollywood and was invited to do a Superbowl ad—but he ignored pretty much everything and instead designed a playground and part of a V&A exhibition about memories. This one was one of my favourite things he talked about, so be sure to check it out. It’s a really lovely idea with pretty outcomes.

Between dark humour and funny stories, Johnny sprinkled in a lot of good life lessons in his talk and these were my favourites:

  • You need input to create output, references are important
  • You know more than you think you know
  • Make the work you want to make
  • Be your own harshest critic
  • Find people you can learn from to collaborate with

He ended his talk showing one of his most recent films called ‘Fern’.


Now to summarise this evening of inspiring talks, here are my key takeaways from both Territory and Johnny Kelly.

  • Thinking futuristic can influence the Now
  • References and moodboards are helpful for yourself and for your clients
  • Data visualisation and UI can be used to tell stories
  • Follow-through is important, if you start something — keep on it
  • Learn from your collaborators
  • Make your work your something you believe in

And that’s a wrap for the first See No Evil event this year. Definitely looking forward to many more talks in 2018.

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