Isabelle Udo is a Dutch Interactive Designer based in Amsterdam. She specializes in Augmented Reality where she makes Beauty and Fashion focused AR headpieces that grow and flow organically with the movement of the user's head. Her work is cross-disciplinary where she uses many different softwares and hardwares to create her artwork digitally, but also incorporates analogue in the form of interactive installations and light sculptures.
Harun Köktürk is a Turkish multidisciplinary designer based in Berlin who graduated from DEU, Faculty of Fine Arts in 2015 in Turkey. Currently, he focuses on creating Augmented Reality experiences while experimenting in various fields of art and design to discover new universes of the digital realm.
Isabelle: Hi Harun! What a pleasure to finally talk to you! Please tell me a bit about yourself! What is your creative background?
Harun: Hi Isabelle, it’s my pleasure to be in an interview with you! I studied Graphic Design in Turkey. But only being called a Graphic Designer is not enough to describe what I’ve done and been doing I believe. Although I still don’t know what to call myself, I think Multidisciplinary Designer or Creator sounds closer to me since I’ve worked in many fields and mediums of art and design and love to get my hands dirty. Currently I’m working as a UI/UX Designer in Berlin and am a passionate AR creator!
Isabelle: You told me that you started using Facebook’s Spark AR Studio when it was still in Beta. What does that mean and how did you get in?
Harun: I met with the AR world with Unity about six years ago while I was thinking about using AR for my Bachelor thesis. But back then it was a struggle to get into AR. Our technology wasn’t enough nor was my ability to run even a simple AR model in a mobile phone! Fortunately I encountered SparkAR and applied for the Beta to start my journey. At that time, only a limited number of people were being able to upload their filters to Instagram. You had to fill a form to apply and then you needed to wait to be selected. But you could still use SparkAR and experiment with it and upload your filters to Facebook.
I waited around 5 months to get accepted for uploading my filters to Instagram. I had already lost hope, because they stopped accepting people for a while due to density.
But one day, I opened my email and saw THE email, “You've been accepted to the Spark AR beta with Instagram!” I cannot forget that moment! I got so excited and immediately adjusted my two filters on Facebook to Instagram and uploaded there. From then on, I got so motivated and started creating filters non-stop.
Isabelle: Could you see people using your filters at that time?
Harun: Unfortunately not unless they tagged you on their posts. Instagram and SparkAR came a long way if you compare it to one year ago!
Isabelle: You seem to be very involved in the Facebook Platform. What do you think about other Social AR platforms like Snapchat and Tiktok?
Harun: I was using Snapchat a lot back then! Snapchat introduced filters to us and integrated them into our lives. I was always thinking about how they are able to create those filters, they were totally fascinating and a whole new world to discover. But I don’t believe Lens Studio was released at the time. It happened right after I quit using Snapchat lol. I still like Snapchat but my journey as a filter creator started with SparkAR. I used Lens Studio a couple of times but the interface was almost completely unfamiliar to those who started with SparkAR. I’ll definitely start publishing Snapchat versions of my filters. Tiktok… Tiktok is too far from me. I don’t know so much about Tiktok and I’m not interested in it for now. But who knows, maybe I’ll be a super crazy Tiktok fan someday (laughing).
Isabelle: Many of your filters let the user interact with it in a clever and creative way, like the SHUTUP! Filter. Where do you get your inspiration from and what do you want to tell with your filters?
Harun: Thank you Isabelle! I get a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, daily conversations with my friends or any kind of event that happens at any time. For example SHUTUP! came to my mind while I was so exhausted from life and work and was thinking about the people who always find energy to talk all the time, even though they don’t know anything about what they are talking about. For a second I thought how funny it would be to have a kind of SHUTUP! sticker in our hands and be allowed to stick it to on people's mouths, then the idea sparked in my mind.
Isabelle: What drives you to create AR experiences and what is your creation process like? What kind of softwares do you use to create?
Harun: My fuel for creating AR experiences is my desire to blend my imaginary world with reality by experimenting and playing around. Reality is sometimes really boring, especially when it comes to the daily struggles and obstacles. Reality becomes more real in those moments. I’m always living in an imaginary world, always daydreaming, trying to add some mystical stories in my daily life to make it more fun and vivid! With AR I found the perfect tool to be able to create my world!
My creative process is all about experimenting. There is no exact way that I can say. Every project or every idea becomes real with a different process. But most of the time an idea comes to my mind and I try to directly dive into creating it. Once I start, I create many versions, many elements about the idea, I’m experimenting with many things. While creating, my mind is always messy in the beginning. But after some point, I start to see ahead and go with a path and plan.
I use Illustrator and Photoshop mostly, they are like my right hands, now I added SparkAR to them, besides using Indesign, After Effects. Recently I started learning some 3D to spice up my AR work and express my imagination even more realistically. And I started learning it with your online course suggestion right after our conversation on Instagram about our filters at the beginning of this year. Thanks again for that Isabelle.
I want to and love to learn more tools to experience more mediums in the future.
Isabelle: I see you use a lot of pop-culture references in your work. What about this dalgadalga filter?
Harun: I actually started using pop-culture references after I tried one filter for fun, which went viral shortly after. Then I thought maybe that would be a good approach creating some filters which have the potential to go viral in order to make people see my original works. Besides that I had so much fun with those filters I got so many positive responses from people. Many of them wrote to me wanting me to create some filters with certain TV references and I stopped because then I’d be finding myself in a black hole.
Dalgadalga is one of viral filters I have with a recent Turkish pop-culture reference. Dalga means “wave” in Turkish and there was an influencer who sang this song in one of his posts while crying and that video was shared maybe millions of times from everyone. There were so many memes about it. And I created that filter using that song he sang with adding a wavy screen. It is a really simple filter but right now it shook the place of my Yu-Gi-Oh! filter which has the most impressions amongst my filters and replaced as number one.
Isabelle: Which of your personal filters is your absolute favourite?
Harun: It’s hard to choose, honestly. I like “dimpland” which is a collaboration with my illustrator friend Gamze Erdogan. I have a deep connection with “revenge” because it’s about Willow, a character from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, my top 1 favorite TV series, and I love “shadowduel” - I’m a huuuge Yu-Gi-Oh! Fan, ah you dragged me into an endless loop Isabelle! To be honest, I think my absolute favorite is “ethereal”. It took me almost 4 months to get the final look. I was revisiting it again and again and trying to get as close as the most realistic otherworldly fabric look between plastic and silk. Still it doesn’t look as I imagined but at some point I needed to stop and publish it. Otherwise maybe I’d be still working on it haha. Oftentimes I must burn my perfectionist side in order to make progress, but with every new project it reborn from its ashes…
Isabelle: What do you think will happen in the future with creative technology advancing so rapidly?
Harun: It’s a bit scary but also very exciting at the same time. I’m always trying to catch and stay up to date about the developments in technology in order to try to mix it with my work. At times I fear it’s progressing so fast I’m afraid that I’ll be no longer understand and use it as I get older.
I sense that in the future there will be a huge gap between creative processes. We will be more attracted to the digital side of Art. I hope we won’t kill traditional art and replace it completely with digital, but one way or another it will evolve to something hybrid in the end. And our perception will continue to evolve making us experience a new era of creativity and art - it is already happening…
Isabelle: You mean that people are getting used to AR? Perhaps even can’t live without it at some point?
Harun: Yes exactly. I believe it’s going to be a part of our day to day life, it will be something usual. Like how easily we accepted the touch screens in a really short time. It’s funny that in the early 2000’s we were seeing it as a technology of the 2100's. It seemed so far away.
Isabelle: How do you see yourself in the future?
Harun: I see myself completely dissolved into the AR and Digital world!
Isabelle: I always say that I want to upload myself to the internet. Do you also have this desire and do you think it will be possible in the future? Hahah
Harun: Oh yes! I believe it’s going to be a thing in the near future. Most likely people will have an avatar as their reflection in the digital world as we watch in some movies already. I attempted to create myself a couple of times but the result wasn’t satisfying for me. Then I stopped searching further but this is definitely in my near future bucket list.
Isabelle: Do you have an idea of what your next filter will be?
Harun: I really want to create a World effect using some 3D objects. I’d love to say that it’s coming next but I’m not sure if I’ll have time soon to focus on it and experiment. For now, I can say that let’s see what feature will be released with the new SparkAR update and let it decide :D
Thank you so much for your interesting insights! I’m sure our paths will cross again sooner rather than later!