AR talks | Jan Trejo

This time our guest is Jan Trejo (@janmahavan), an experienced Instagram AR creator who takes a lot of ideas from his passions. Read to know what keeps him motivated and what kind of filters have a chance of staying popular for a longer time.

Hi, Jan! First, please tell us something about yourself and your road to Instagram AR filters.

I started working with filters for Facebook platform before it was available for Instagram, I applied for the beta but I was not selected. At that time, I was experimenting and playing with the tools and the software, developing my first projects that some of them never saw the light of day.

The first filters I made were environments with mirrors to reflect my interest in interior design and architecture, then I went for vintage filters with Polaroids, 8mm frames, and color filters to reflect my love for photography. As I learned, I increased the complexity and started to play with animations, which is one of my favorite features. I love to squeeze the potential of the patch editor and I always make blocks and patch assets to optimize my time in a better way.

I find this platform ideal because it allows me to integrate many of my interests into a single idea and allows people to better understand my vision. It has become my dream job. And thankfully, I have had the opportunity to work with world-known companies and I love the fact that I’m able to include part of my essence as a creator in every single project.

Frames may look like easy filters to make, but in fact it’s not so simple to make a frame or photographic effect that will be engaging for users. What’s your method of coming up with the ideas and turning them into AR filters?

That is a great question, Being an architect, I have always been into photography, art, fashion, history, architecture, and nature. My inspiration comes from taking elements of each group and putting them together to share my perspective and my reality with the world. Sometimes, inspiration comes when I am watching a series, a movie, or a music video. They all have elements that can be very inspiring.

For me, the key to stay inspired is not to focus on a single style or subject and to experiment with different categories: beauty, retro, vintage, aesthetic, 3D elements, frames… This allows me to have a very diverse portfolio and show flexibility with my audience and clients.

You’ve made some iconic randomizers Disney Characters. Why do you think What _ are you? filters were so popular in 2020?

I think they went viral because it is a common interest for many of us, it is something that represents our childhood so it became something nostalgic. All of the above, along with the idea of playing a game directly on Instagram, makes it much more attractive.

The success of these filters was huge! After they went viral, many brands contacted me to work on filters with this topic for their own profile, using characters or even products, there are no limits.

What’s your favorite filter made by yourself? Do you have some story concerning any of your effects that you’d like to share?

If I have to choose one, I would choose ‘Glitter on White’ and the whole series I did about it because it was the filter that put me on the map creating a new trend on Instagram. Being to date one of my most shared filters.

Then there is the series I made of ‘Which character are you?’ which got a great response from people. The graphical part of these filters was a really fun thing to do and something that made my filters stand out from the rest.

How popular are Instagram AR filters in your country? Are there any particular trends here?

Fortunately, people use filters on a daily basis here in Mexico, I think the most popular are color and beauty filters or the ones with deformation. Maybe it is the standard globally, sometimes filters go viral for a few weeks or months, but after their popularity decreases, the ones that remain are the ones that can be used daily. This doesn’t mean that every creator needs to create basic filters to become popular. If you have a great idea, do it.

Sometimes people get frustrated to see that their filters are not popular, even if the complexity is higher. What keeps me motivated is to create because I’m in love with the idea and not because I think it will become viral, if that happens I’ll take it as a plus.

Your Instagram feed is full of beautiful, artistic photos from your journeys. Is that something that you take inspiration from when creating AR filters? Do you photograph yourself?

Totally, as I mentioned, two of my great passions are architecture and photography. When I travel I like to take pictures of the whole trip and when I’m back home, these photos inspire me to create. Some of my filters are a hybrid between the user and a marble bust, this idea came from my visits to museums and are some of my favorite effects yet.

A time later, a fashion designer contacted me because he felt identified with my style and had in their collection very similar designs, we worked together on a filter based on that idea and we loved the result.

Jan, thank you very much for your time. Keep up the good work and stay as creative as you are!