Sedef Ertem is a talented graphic and 3D motion designer who started experimenting with AR filters for fun – at first. Now, she is a freelancer Spark AR nad Lens Studio Creator. Discover her journey, try her filters and read about her must-watch animations – all in the interview below 👇
Hi, Sedef! We will start our questions by an observation: you’ve studied in Istanbul, Rome and Boston. You celebrate your Turkic heritage, eg. with your ‘Rite’ Instagram filter. How do these diverse cultural experiences impact you and your art? Or, in other words, please tell us more about yourself 😊
Hello! Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about my work and my journey! I am Turkish and I currently live in Istanbul. I got my BFA in Graphic Design here in Istanbul and I lived in Rome for 6 months while I was studying. Went there with the Erasmus Student Exchange program. It is basically an agreement between certain institutions in Europe. After graduating from college I worked as a graphic designer for about 4 years. My work consisted of print based media, like package design, layout design for magazines and brochures etc. I realized that I actually wanted to create digital and playful experiences. To spice up my work and my life I decided to move to Boston, USA where I had the opportunity to participate in many interesting workshops and courses at Harvard. Later I applied to Northeastern University and I got my MA in Multimedia Design. During my 3 years in Boston I was exposed to game design, interaction design and 3D animation.
I am still trying to find my visual style. I don’t think it has matured yet. Content wise I know what I am interested in and what I want to talk about. I guess what I can say about my work is that with my creations I am trying to reflect or/and resolve the difficulties of modern life with the support of philosophy. My visual style tends to look colorful and playful but the topics that interest me are pretty heavy like loneliness, existentialism and anxiety which brings us to your second question.
Your portfolio consists of 3D motion designs well as 2D graphics. When it comes to the former, I was mostly impressed by “Unwind”, the visual story about anxiety disorder and the project you claim “is very close to your heart”. I believe it can help many people realize how anxiety works. Why did you put so much effort into this matter?
I have been struggling with panic attack disorder for the last 9 years now and there is no doubt that it has a huge effect on my life and I am going to be honest it is very hard. I still remember my first panic attack vividly. I didn’t know what was happening to me and it took me years to find the courage to take a step and ask for help. After many many visits to my psychologist’s office and a lot of medication I finally understood and accepted my situation. I am still trying to find ways to cope with it. I have experienced very hard times like not being able to leave my house to go to work or feeling paralysed and stuck in a random place at a random time, fearing I would go insane all by myself in the middle of a street in shame. It is hard but I am getting better everyday.
Thank you for sharing this hard experience with our readers, Sedef. We hope that Unwind will help as many people as it can!
Your work as a graphic designer seems to revolve around non-profit organisations. You were volunteering for EChO as well as BostonFIG, and you re-designed the corporate ID of Turkish Anti-Cancer Foundation. Is it just a coincidence?
I am always interested in nonprofits, but this is actually just a coincidence. I knew a friend who was working for ECho, met one of the organizers of BostonFIG while I was at one of their events in Boston and met the manager of Turkish Anti-Cancer Foundation when I was attending a sports event in Istanbul sponsored by them.
Now, let’s talk about Augmented Reality. How did your AR journey started? How does it relate to your work as a graphic designer? How would you describe your style and where do you get your inspiration from? What is your favourite AR filter made by you?
My AR journey started when I was working at ECho in Boston. I was working for them as a 3D artist. They were working on a mobile AR game for kids, that shows them which food product contains what kind of added sugar. I started playing around with AR when I was at ECho but I created my first AR filter in the beginning of 2020 when I collaborated with a German Illustrator/Animator.
I think I have a colorful and playful style. I like simple soft forms and bright colors. I get my inspiration from what I am going through or what I am thinking at that point in time. For example I decided to create “Rite” after I met a nomad woman while I was on vacation in a small village on the south coast of Turkey. I was inspired by the colorful scarves with beads wrapped around her head to protect her face from the sun. I think “Rite” is my favorite filter. I like the cute totem you can place on earth.
I also love “MicroOasis” I created in Lens Studio with Yunus Emre Ersoy (who is a Turkish designer as well). We created it during the Isolation period towards the end of 2020. We were trapped inside our tiny apartment and we were both in need of an escape to breathe and relax. So we created this safe space/Oasis together.
You now work as a freelancer. How is it? What are the advantages and challenges? Do you have any tips for the Creators who’d like to follow your steps?
The greatest advantage would be the free time to work on personal projects and the obvious challenge would be finding new clients especially during the pandemic.
I started creating filters just because I thought they were fun and interesting, I never knew I could make money creating them.
Our team at Lenslist is very aware of the way Creators promote their work, eg. by preparing attractive demo videos or maintaining their social profiles. We love your website in this regard very much. In your experience, what are the most important things you should care about while promoting your work as a freelancer?
I think being consistent with your posts on IG is the most important part. I can’t say I am very good at it. And spreading the word that you create AR filters to everyone you meet irl and on social media :))
Recently, you made your first two Snapchat Lenses (btw, thanks for submitting them for our Call for Content!). How would you describe the main differences between working with Spark AR and Lens Studio?
Thank you! I had so much fun creating in Lens Studio. I think the most noticeable difference between Spark AR and Lens Studio would be the UI&UX aspect. Spark AR is definitely more user friendly. Easier to learn, easier to understand but also more limited. I feel like with Lens Studio I can be more experimental. It definitely has more features and feels more flexible. The material editor is impressive!
What are your plans for the future? Should we expect any new filter from you soon? Do you plan to turn your freelancer workshop into a studio?
Yes! New filter coming soon! I am also working on a new short 3D animation, again on a very personal subject and a VR affirmation meditation experience project which I hope will be finished sometime next year. I do dream of having my own creative studio one day but don’t have any plans to realize my dream at the moment. Hopefully it will happen in the near future.
Sedef, thank you for your time and your AR experiences. We can’t wait for your new filter. Good luck on realizing the dream about your own creative studio, we’re sure you’ll get there!