Immersive Interview with Jean Patry
So, I know that you are CEO of Arrow and you were in YCombinator this year. Also, you were working on Quik app that was acquired by GoPro. Is that right?
Yes, that’s right!
How did you get into AR field?
My co-founder Francescu and I come from the world of video editing on mobile. For us, AR is a natural extension of that. We loved video because it is a rich format — compared with photos, opening to a lot of creative possibilities. AR is even richer.
We are also extremely bullish about AR in general, we feel like it has the potential to transform a lot of our daily habits.
Honestly, shortly after ARKit was released, I was running on a treadmill and was thinking how it would be cool to have 3d emoji in AR. And the first thing that I did was to google for such app. And you were the first application that I found. I was so disappointed that someone had this idea before me that I even didn’t installed it at first :). So how you got an idea to make Arrow?
During a hackathon at Stupeflix — the startup where we first met — Francescu and I made an app to make 2D text animations, called Legend. That app got quite popular and was eventually added to Facebook Messenger as a provider for their GIF search feature. The first idea for Arrow was to make an AR version of Legend. But it has quite changed since :)
How do you describe your competitors and market at all? Is AR growing fast enough?
To make an analogy with the very beginning of mobile apps, we are at the “laser saber and fart apps” stage of AR. The tech is there but product designers need time to figure out what to build. I still think we will see some mainstream usage of AR before headsets come into play.
I know that you were the one who was working on the design of the app. And it looks great BTW. Do you have prior experience in design?
Thanks! One thing to know is that I am originally a math guy. When I started working for the video editing Quik, my job was to design and code video editing templates. So I started learning design along the way, actually starting with motion design. As a science person, I first tried to learn the rules. That’s why I fell in love with design theories and systems like Material Design. They helped me entering the design field through generalizing concepts.
Who else is on your team?
My cofounder and CTO Francescu who is very technical and extraordinarily versatile. Shoot out to him, as I don’t have many occasions to do so :)
Also, I know that you are improving your app quite often, as you made two new versions while I was doing UX review :). What is your usual workflow?
We are still at the stage where we try to make radical experiments with the product and release them as fast as possible. We do very short sprints and we don’t have a roadmap. We figure out what to build next based on product analytics and insights we got from the latest experiments we made.
What kind of tools are you using for design, prototyping and developing daily?
I use Sketch for UI design and experimenting visual concepts for AR effects.
Invision when I need to make UX prototypes.
After Effects + Lottie to make animated UI elements.
Photoshop for static AR elements (textures, particles, etc.).
I am also fond of generating design programmatically, so I try to make as many things as possible out of pure code (animations, 3D objects, shaders, etc.)
Xcode for coding, obviously.
Can you please share your experience about being located in Europe, not in the USA?
At this stage we are trying to stay lean and being in Paris helps with that. Also, we think it might also be strategic for recruitment, as there is a pool of extremely skillful people in Paris who are looking for exciting opportunities.
How YCombinator affected your product and you personally?
It dramatically impacted our approach to building a consumer product. I think it put us in a better position to tell what’s working and what’s not, which is critical at our stage.
What other activities or initiatives do you enjoy besides Arrow app?
Playing the piano, DJing + attending Techno / House music events. But AR is taking a lot of space currently, tbh :)
If you could, what career advice would you offer to younger yourself?
I’d tell myself that it is possible to have incompatible ambitions, like pursuing both technical and creative goals. There is a way to reconcile them eventually. Plus it’s ok to stay hybrid.
With whom from AR field (or not only) would you like to have a beer, and why?
Daniel Singer from Panda, we had a good conversation over the phone but did not meet IRL.
What is right from your point of view?
I’m more familiar with AR/VR, but I think most people don’t really know or care about those distinctions. What matters to them is how compelling the experiences are.
What are your plans for future?
Keep experimenting on what AR can bring in terms of creation and social interactions.
Can you share one story about being a founder of AR app that sums up your experience?
At some point we made an AR geolocation pin for people to add in their surroundings. Users would purposely misuse it as an arrow to point at things and people. So we decided to add arrow-like effects in the app, which are now the most used ones. To sum up: it’s just about how people use your product.
What are the most required skills for guys who want to start designing for AR?
I think AR is a shift in the way we design visual experiences. So I’d say being willing to learn. In a more practical way, AR has a lot to do with space, so designers should know a bit about 3D graphics and animations.
Can you give some advice for young designers?
I’d encourage them to embrace the latest challenges in design, because they might learn and grow faster. AR is one of them but there are many others — VR, programmatic design, IOT, etc. It is always easier to go backwards and tackle more traditional challenges afterwards.
Thank you for sharing your experience.
This story is part of series Immersive Interviews. If you are also VR/AR designer, and you have what to say (I’m sure that you have) drop me a line on email or Twitter. Check out the previous interview from this series: