Mixel is a new iPad app that just hit the App Store, but it’s also a new art medium. Mixel allows users to assemble collages by manipulating images pulled from their device, Facebook photos, and Bing search. It’s different from glue and paper cut-outs and existing collage apps, though, because every finished Mixel creation is publicly available for other users to pick apart, remix, and share. Forget the sanctity of something hung in a gallery, Mixel’s tag line is “Please touch the art”.
The app has been in development in New York’s Dogpatch Labs since February by Lascaux Co., founded by former New York Times digital design director Khoi Vinh and MIT computer science grad Scott Ostler. The background of the founders mirrors the intention of the app — to combine art and technology to democratize creative expression. Vinh tells me he wants art to be something you can make “while you’re on the couch, you don’t have to be sitting at a desk or standing at an easel.”
Mixel is simple to use, but the remix feature provides depth so there’s always something to do. You start by cropping down some source images and adding them to a canvas. Then you resize and position the elements to create a finished Mixel before sharing it to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. Links lead to a standalone web view of a Mixel, similar to Instagram. Mixels can also be browsed within the app by following friends or checking out a Popular tab of creations with the most Likes and Loves.
If you discover a single image or entire work you want to use, you can start a remix with it. These are threaded into a conversation with the original work in the app’s galleries and the web view. This lets you see how different people interpet the same subject, and lends the app to deep social interactions where you collaborate with strangers or play around with friends. Currently there are no privacy controls in Mixel. Everything’s public, which the app warns you of if you add your own photos.
Lascaux has secured $600,000 in seed funding from investors including Polaris Venture Partners, Betaworks, and Allen & Company, plus a $100,000 TechFellow award from Founders Fund and New Enterprise Associates. Its next steps include adding Flickr, Tumblr, and Pinterest as image sources as well as privacy controls for sharing Mixels with small groups of friends. Lascaux is also planning an iPhone app that instead of being a shrunk-down clone of the app will be a complement for browsing Mixels, leaving feedback, and saving images for later user. Collage creation will be reserved for the big screened iPad.
Built on an instantly familiar multi-touch display, those of all ages will soon be exploring the Mixel medium. Vinh explains that, “We don’t want art to be something monumental that makes people feel intimidated. Rather, we want to take people that would never really engage with art apps and turn them into engaged, passionate visual communicators.” Mixel is now available for iPad in the App Store.