How I Built An AR Effect With 200K Opens

Yash Gupta
Designer/Founder, Refuse.
Published December 3rd, 2021.

At the time of publishing this article, Acid has over 200K opens. Which is pretty amazing—especially when it doesn’t quite have as many impressions yet.

A screenshot of Spark AR Hub insights, showing that Acid has had 206,331 opens.
Or ‘200K+’; as the internet tends to stop counting beyond round figures.

That’s right; this Instagram filter has been working so well for people, that it consistently gets more opens than impressions. Which (I assume) means that it has a lot of regular users.

And despite this being a good thing for my AR effect, it had been something I didn’t like for a long time.

Really. I didn’t like that this one effect had been so much more successful than every other Instagram effect I had made—combined.

A screenshot of Spark AR Hub interface, showing the combined insights from all effects except Acid; and that they’ve only had 26,400 opens.
Number of opens from every other effect, combined.

And the reason is that I was never going to release this effect. It was going to live as an experiment. This effect was a quick and fun experiment for me, while every other effect I had released previously, was more deliberate. I just happened to release Acid, because I happened to feel the need to release an AR effect, and be out of new ideas at the same time.

This reminded me that I was a bad judge; that I had wrongly optimized—wait, no—toned down other effects I had built, hoping to make them more accessible and neutral. As it turned out, Instagram (users) didn’t prefer neutrality as much as it preferred something that was extreme and experimental, even if it seemed to make very little sense from a design perspective.

And that made me feel like I never had the control I thought I did. That I was deliberately working against myself this whole time, while building all those other effects.

The Acid AR effect icon.
Acid reminded me that if I like something I’ve made, others would too.

Things To Learn

As unexpected as it may have been, Acid’s great performance means that I get to have first-hand experience with what works.

Now—I can never truly know (unless you tell me) what makes people want to try this effect; then use it over and over. What I can do though, is think about what I did differently with this effect in comparison to others, make some guesses, and hope that I’m close enough.

This is why I think Acid has performed so well:

How I Built It

I’m not going to get into the specifics of how the application I used to build the effect works, because that’s a different topic. It’s called Spark AR Studio, and has a bunch of online documentation, should you need help figuring out how to use it. If you’d still like to see a short and digestible guide on Spark AR Studio, let me know.

Building this AR effect was pretty straightforward. In fact, it was simple enough that I’m going to cover the process in bullet points (Spark AR has an updated guide on using color LUTs within Spark AR Studio, on their website):

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