Sarah Frisken’s ‘Made with Mischief’ painting app acquired by The Foundry

Image via The Foundry
Image via The Foundry

Last year, I met with Sarah Frisken, a quiet and unassuming local design professor, who introduced me to a design/painting app called Mischief, and I was blown away by what I saw in the tiny startup’s demo video.

Today, it is being announced that Frisken’s startup, now rebranded as Made with Mischief, has been acquired by The Foundry, a London-based creative software company.

Made with Mischief is a digital pen-based drawing system designed to be used with both Apple and Windows computers that combines two of the most commonly used design and drawing processes. Users can design using colored pixels, like Photoshop, while it also has Illustrator-like tools that lets users draw what Frisken called “mathematical curves.”

The outcome is the most high-tech computer drawing process I’ve seen, allowing users the fluidity of drawing by hand, and the infinite possibilities of computer design, without the limitations of either Illustrator or Photoshop.

Here is the video demo of the original Mischief app that originally blew my mind:

The technology, called Adaptively Sampled Distance Fields, was co-invented by Frisken and Ron Perry at the Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab in Kendall Square more than a decade ago. A few years ago, Frisken licensed back the technology, although Mitsubishi still owns the intellectual property, and started Mischief, which she though would be mainly used by professional digital artists and designers.

After initially launching last summer, Frisken was overwhelmed by the excitement of users. For a relatively small company, the demand and requests for additional features almost became overwhelming. “It got to the point where it looked like things could get a bit too exciting, where it was getting too big,” said Frisken, “That’s when I knew I’d have to grow or do something else with Mischief.”

Image via Made with Mischief

It was around that time that Frisken was connected with The Foundry.

“It felt like a perfect match,” said the Mischief founder. “They had the complement to what we had at Mischief and they got excited about bringing us on board.”

“Our customer will be the everyday artist,” said Frisken, “it will be accessible to anyone with a creative eye or creative hand, while The Foundry is focused on more higher end artists.”

The acquisition actually occurred in June (terms of the deal were not disclosed) and Made with Mischief will be a subsidiary of the U.K.-based The Foundry, and will continue operating out of its Cambridge office. Along with the acquisition, the app is officially relaunched online and in the App Store. The app will cost $25 for the full version and can be purchased at the App Store or through the Made with Mischief’s website. A free, scaled-down version aimed at younger artists and novice designers is also being made available which includes basic brushes, colors, and a full “infinite canvas” experience.

From The Foundry’s perspective, the company gets a chance to wade into a broader market of artists and digital designers.

Image via Made with Mischief

For Frisken, the past year has almost been surreal. “Anyone who’s been through this would know, getting the product out there and then getting others to use it, it’s really inspiring to get people using something you build,” she said.

“It’s been quite a trip,” Frisken added.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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