Screen UI Design

Iron Man’s Mark VII HUD

In addition to designing a few new elements for the existing Mark VI HUD (previously designed by Cantina’s Stephen Lawes for Iron Man II), I had the challenge of designing an entirely new, upgraded HUD for Tony Stark’s most advanced suit to date – the Mark VII.

For research I basically taught myself how to fly using whatever I could find: books, videos and flight simulators. I filled over three notebooks for the HUD alone with ideas.

I designed each element in Illustrator, exported to a PSD and imported into After Effects for Animation. Some elements were designed in Cinema 4D and also brought into After Effects for final color correction to Robert Downy Jr.’s face, interactive facial highlights and eye reflections. This was the first time the HUD was done in Stereo. The Mark VI was a bit flat in nature – allowing the Mark VII to come alive with dimension.

Since working in stereo (3d) meant that everything was in focus and clearly readable, it was important that each part had a function – rather than just being random graphics thrown in without specific  purpose.

Below is the design brief for the Mark VII. I basically put together a ‘HUD Bible’ that consisted of all the elements of the HUD, their purpose, each design iteration through the various suits, and how the new design was an upgrade in terms of use and function.

The diagnostic is the main information giving widget of the HUD. I kept the top heading indicator from the previous HUD designs – it’s been somewhat of a staple and gives you that ‘Iron Man’ feeling. I also kept the center menu as Weapons, Suit, Bio – but added sub radial menus.

The radial orange graph indicators actually have text for each section of his suit – but Tony doesn’t need to read it. Similar to all current visual-complexity-mapping – you’re looking for the patterns. So at a moments glance he can see generally how his suit is doing at any given time. He can also see if those components are talking to each other properly via the connecting lines.

I’m one of those ‘reason for everything’ type designers – so as much as possible was thought out from a functioning perspective.

As you’re looking at Tony – the dimensional display has depth, creating an entirely new design.

The targeting reticle was designed to be a dimensional, functioning piece rather like a lens or combat scope.


The Radar/Lidar projection had two modes – a 2d ‘Synthetic Aperture’ view and a 3 dimensional detailed view.

We had initially thought of the 3d view as potentially taking up the entire HUD and I did a few animated tests on looks for Jarvis building more and more detailed displays as it collected data from the suit’s sensors. (click to see larger)

I also visualized it as a self contained widget.

This idea of the map widget ended up working best, allowing the audience to see RDJ’s performance and the various storypoints.

Designed and Animated for: Cantina Creative
Marvel VFX Supervisor:
Janek Sirrs
Stereo Supervisor:
Wes Sewell
Cantina VFX Producer:
Sean Cushing
Cantina Creative Director:
Stephen Lawes
Cantina VFX Supervisor:
Venti Hristova
Cantina VFX Production: Lily Shapiro
The Cantina team and I all worked super hard on this film under the guidance of the always awesome Venti Hristova – and became a family of crime-fighting friends for life. So I just wanted to give a shout out to my fellow Cantina peeps here:

Cantina’s badass Design and Animation team
Jonathan Ficcadenti
Alan Torres
Navarro Parker
Sang Shin
Asuka Ashizawa
Takashi Takeoka
Sarah Blank
Stephen Morton
Aaron Eaton
Matt Eaton
Lukas Weyandt
Leon Nowlin, Jr.

The Avengers is ™ & © 2012 Marvel and Subs.