You Draw It AR: Instagram Face Filters for Data-Driven Journalism

Published On: May 3rd, 2023

Why face filters?

How does it work?

Our First AR Instagram Story

How to create a successful filter

Building and publishing our story was fun, but it was no walk in the park. We had to discuss journalistic concepts and also learn lessons in interaction design and project management. Here are four pieces of advice for creating a successful face filter:

  • Keep it simple and relevant. Questions should be brief (as there is not a lot of space on a smartphone display) and easy to understand. They should also be connected to a topic that your news channel is planning to cover. Furthermore, the final result should surprise users, encouraging them to share it among their peers.
  • Find suitable gestures. Spark Studio AR offers many different ways of interaction. We have found almost everything from chin position to forehead movement detection. After trying out a lot of funny facial expressions, we finally decided to use head movements — because it seemed to be the easiest and most convenient option.
  • Find the right form of visualization. It is challenging to find the right type of chart to display guesses and results. Among other things, we tested: bar charts, donut charts, bubble charts (open your mouth wide for an extra big bubble), right/wrong filters (say yes or no by moving your head to one side of the screen), dot graphs (“draw” with your nose), and face masks (move your head and “fill” your face). Eventually, we focused on rather simple bar charts, because our users liked them the best.
  • Plan ahead. Before publishing a filter, it has to be reviewed by Instagram. And guess what? Ours was rejected! They did not accept static elements in the image that were not anchored to the face. We did some adjustment and handed in the second version — which was rejected, too. This time, our set of instructions was a static graphic when it should have been implemented as a part of a specific Spark AR mechanism. Finally, the third version of our filter was accepted. However, the reviewing process had severely delayed the publication of a news-driven Instagram filter story by then.

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Line charts, circles, AR smurf mode? Picking the right form of dataviz was quite a challenge.

What next?

We think that playful, participatory elements like Instagram face filters could make it easier to connect with a younger audience. They also work well when it comes to communicating serious topics in an entertaining way. This is why we are working on our second filter. This time, we are partnering with the team of DW Meet the Germans. Instead of embedding the filter in an Instagram Story, we will try out a different approach. Stay tuned!

Special thanks to the rest of the You Draw It AR team: Lukas Hansen, Stephan Gensch, Christine Bayer, Lars Jandel, Angela Kea.

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