Aestheticodes is a new to market company that has evolved out of a joint project between Designers and Computer Scientists under the research umbrella of Horizon Digital Economy research Institute at The University of Nottingham.

Horizon Digital Economy Research. Established in 2009, this venture represents an initial £40 million investment by Research Councils UK (RCUK), The University of Nottingham and over 100 academic and industrial partners; in both a Research Hub and Doctoral Training Centre within the RCUK Digital Economy programme.

Building on the Digital Britain plan, Horizon research focuses on the role of ‘always on, always with you’ ubiquitous computing technology. Our aim is to investigate the technical developments needed if electronic information is to be controlled, managed and harnessed — for example, to develop new products and services for societal benefit.

Aestheticodes visual recognition app marks a paradigm shift in visual recognition, offering difference to discerning brands. We design visually beautiful images and encode them, resulting in the same interactivity as that of the QR code but with a more visually engaging and playful experience.

Images can be the identical with unique codes or the opposite visually unique with identical codes. This interplay offers a new opportunity for visual interaction within, product, packaging, service and interaction design.

There is an important structure to all aestheticodes imagery. It is not complicated to do and once mastered it allows the user to visually redesign the codes again and again.

A context or brand specific APP ensures users are able to find and trigger our beautifully designed patterns and their hidden content. The APP does not recognize the image it simply scans the topography of the image thus allowing for a playful and poetic approach to the generation of visual markers and triggers.

The company offers a programming, APP development and graphic design service. We can produce a full visual branding and interactivity service that is bespoke to each brand or context. Aestheticodes is an unusual company in that it is commercially implementing ongoing research and innovations to bring the customer the most up to date and unique service available.

Research Paper



CEKE feasibility project proposal

Exploring the feasibility of using Aestheticodes to enhance visitor interactions with lace collections

Nottingham University:

Boriana Koleva, Associate Professor, School of Computer Science (Human Computer Intercation) Richard Mortie, Transitional Fellow, School of Computer Science (Systems development)

Nottingham Trent University:

Amanda Briggs-­‐Goode, Principal Lecturer, School of Art & Design (Textile Design) Sarah Kettley, Senior Lecturer, School of Art & Design (Product Design)

Newstead Abbey:

Judith Edgar, Collections Access Officer, Newstead Abbey and Costume and Textile Collection

Project Goals:

The overall aim of the project is to explore the feasibility of enhancing the understanding of lace collections with digital layers of information by recognising visual codes embedded into the decorative patterns.

Similarly to barcodes and QR codes our visual codes encode an id but they are aesthetic, hidden and under designer control.

The envisaged interaction for visitors is that they would scan a lace pattern (representative of a particular period or body of work) with their mobile phone in order to receive additional information (such as where and how it was made, its use etc.) and possibly participate in activities (such as searching for and collecting items, quizzes, leaving comments). 

To realise this aim, the project will address the following specific objectives:

- Investigate the feasibility of recognising patterns in lace designs – the focus will be on creating new lace designs which follow specific pattern rules to make them identifiable as a visual code but we will also explore if existing lace designs might be recognisable too

- Explore how best to enhance the visitor experience of browsing lace collections with digital layers of information (appropriate interactions, information and activities) by designing a prototype mobile application 


The idea of scanning visual codes to trigger digital interactions is well established. The use of specifically designed codes, containing many bits of information reaches back to the use of barcodes. More recently, 2D codes that are readable by mobile applications (e.g., QR codes), have become popular. These techniques are designed to be robust but come at the cost of a limited aesthetic.

As an alternative we have refined a technique, named Aestheticodes, to embed multiple visual codes in wider decorative patterns [1]. This is based on d-­‐touch [2], a visual marker recognition system, which uses topological markers that encode information in the structure of the image. We felt this to be especially appropriate because it embodies a bottom-­‐up, drawing-­‐based approach that we felt would fit very well with the drawing skills of professional designers.

So far we have worked with ceramics designers to refine the vision technology and to produce a pattern book of designs (see figure 1). Using these designs we then manufactured place settings (e.g. see figure 2) and worked with a restaurant to explore how we can use the interactive tableware to enhance the dining experience. An exciting and valuable next step would be to explore the feasibility of creating and recognising Aestheticodes in lace. 

"Aestheticodes is an unusual company in that it is commercially implementing ongoing research and innovations to bring the customer the most up to date and unique service available. "

− Aestheticodes