Move Over Instagram: pxl Instantly Turns Your Pics Into Pixel Art

This simple photo filter transforms your photos into insta-art. (Squint and you can kinda see the originals.)

With its nostalgic filters reminiscent of analog cameras and expired film, Instagram has taken over the world. It makes sense. Instragram’s highly stylized filters, over-saturating color and pushing contrasts to their limits, are the perfect complement for the current wave of drab cellphone cameras.


In embracing the imperfect image, Instagram has made bad images look better. And it just so happens that nostalgia seems to pair perfectly with constantly, instantly shared experiences. People can create instant memories. So what’s the next Instragram? Will there be another trend that can beat nostalgia?

A turn back to realism seems like a possibility. Also possible? A complete departure.

pxl is a new iOS app, designed by Visual Artist Rainer Kohlberger, that does for abstraction what Instagram does for nostalgia. It’s essentially a series of filters that break down your image into interpretive shapes and colors. But the user actually retains quite a bit of control through a simple interface: Pinching/zooming will increase or decrease the intensity of effect, and sliding a finger right or left will tweak the overall brightness and contrast of the image (which is generally controlled by augmenting total amount of black space in the image, rather than merely deepening darks).

“We’re living in a time where we’re a bit obsessed with nostalgia, not too many new aesthetics are emerging these days, but we are finding ways to always remix and recombine already established ideas to create something new out of them,” Kohlberger tells Co.Design. “Some of the modes you can find in pxl also were already present in galleries and artworks by other artists. But my intention was to make it possible for anyone to stick her/his nose into abstract concepts.”

Kohlberger credits Wim Crouwel as a big influence for his grid-based work, much like a Lomo’s film stocks influenced Instagram clones, though it’s arguable that any filter inside pxl is as inherently familiar as it could be–pxl would surely be more marketable with a Rothko or Pollock filter.

As of now, pxl isn’t a social platform unto itself (though Kohlberger has considered the infrastructure build-out), the app does offer simple sharing to Twitter and Facebook. If you’d like to try it out, the universal app runs $1.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.