Computational Aesthetics Group

Rutgers University


Rutgers University




The Computational Aesthetics Group is a campus-wide organization whose purpose is the computational analysis of aesthetics in the design process. The research interests and principles of this group are based on the statement of purpose of the International Society for Mathematical and Computational Aesthetics, from which we quote directly, as follows:

Statement of purpose from the International Society for Mathematical and Computational Aesthetics

The computational analysis of design is now a enormous discipline involving the interaction of high-level mathematics with advanced programming technologies. All design attempts to satisfy two constraints: functionality and aesthetics. Even a discipline as functionally oriented as structural engineering, in fact, involves aesthetic control over systems of non-linear equations. Aesthetics allows for (1) productive unification of perception, reasoning, and action, (2) understandability despite complexity, (3) generalization and re-usability, (4) axiomatic economy and principled prediction. Aesthetics is a major force in each of the following areas:

Computer-Aided Design and Manufacturing, Robot Motion Design: There has been considerable convergence in mathematics across the different types of CAD (e.g., in architecture and mechanical design), as well as manufacturing by shape-sculpting technology, and robot motion design. We note that Frank Gehry's Guggenheim museum at Bilbao was possible because James Glymph imported into architecture a major program designed by the French for aerospace engineering. The reason for the converging unity is that each of the several disciplines involves analysis of spatial systems of movement, control, and shape deformation - whose natural description is Lie algebras, tensor geometry with exterior differential calculus, and algebraic geometry.

Analysis of Artistic Masterpieces.  Remarkable advances have been made in the mathematical and computational analysis of major artistic masterpieces - from the chorales of Bach, the piano sonatas of Beethoven, to the paintings of Picasso and Raphael, etc. Again, these analyses mainly involve Lie groups, Lie algebras, algebraic and differential geometry.

Scientific Theory-Building and Reasoning: It has been well-recognized that aesthetic criteria play a powerful role in determining the design of theoretical models (e.g., irreducible representations of compact Lie algebras predicted the particle systems of quantum mechanics), as well as the dynamic equations of physics (e.g., Paul Dirac declared that the design of his relativistic electron equation was determined primarily by aesthetic criteria). The problem of insight in theory-building, problem-solving, and reasoning generally has been tackled with significant advances in AI - particularly in the problem-reformulation community, which is based strongly on the aesthetic supervision of discrete algebraic systems.

Software Design: It is clear that aesthetic criteria play a major role in determining software cohesion and decomposition, e.g., module decomposition in structured programming, object decomposition in object-oriented technology. Furthermore, it is apparent that there has been a remarkable interaction between the design of software and the software of design - and that this self-referring advance is driven by the need for aesthetic structuring of systems of computational operations.

The International Society for Mathematical and Computational Aesthetics is concerned with any design object, whether it be the machine-sculpted surface of a car body, the Beethoven Hammerklavier sonata, the Feynman propagator in quantum electrodynamics, or re-usable software. We are concerned with advanced research in four directions: (1) how the design decision-flow is controlled by aesthetics; (2) what structural aspects of a design object are taken to be aesthetic; (3) how aesthetic value is computed by the designer and user; and (4) how aesthetics is integrated with function in the design object.

Faculty Membership of the Rutgers Group

To be a faculty member of the Rutgers group, you must either (1) have a technical degree; i.e., in mathematics, a physical science, engineering, or computer science; or (2) be a faculty person in a technical department, or (3) have substantial published record in digital design.

Student Membership of the Rutgers Group

Students can be members if their current studies are clearly moving them towards the above qualifications.

Contact: Professor Michael Leyton:


Linked organizations:

International Society for Mathematical and Computational Aesthetics

International Society for Group Theory in Cognitive Science