Computer algorithm designs stamps for the first time

The Hague, the Netherlands, 28 October 2021 - PostNL has a very special first to announce: today it becomes the first postal company in the world to issue stamps designed by computer algorithm (AI). The Digi Art issue was designed by the computer based on a collection of 1,500 stamps from the 1852-1920 period.

The five stamps may have the look and feel of old-fashioned stamps, but are anything but. The algorithm has come up with unique designs with tried-and-trusted elements such as a main image in the middle of a frame, a strip featuring text at the bottom, ornamental decorations in the four corners and perforated edges.

Generative art

The stamp design was created through AI, other usages of which include facial recognition, autonomous driving and smart thermostats, as well as generative art. This AI application uses an algorithm to come up with an original design or piece of art – which is exactly what happened with the Digi Art stamp issue. Worldwide, this is the first sheet of stamps made by artificial intelligence.


The algorithm is capable of self-learning, which means that it uncovers the structure in the input provided and is not programmed to produce a desired outcome. The output is a large series of images created by the algorithm making and evaluating pictures millions of times.

Push in the right direction

The Digi Art stamps are the brainchild of Tim Ottens, a data scientist at PostNL, who guided the algorithm’s self-learning. Ottens observes: “The first few attempts don’t look like much of anything, but gradually the outlines of stamps emerged. At each assessment point, we tinkered with the program to give the algorithm a little push in the right direction. And then we got to a point where we had a list of outcomes from which we selected our designs. No more changes were made after that – even the colours were selected by the algorithm.”


The Digi Art sheet of stamps has five different stamps specifying “Nederland 1”, i.e. meant for mail up to 20 grammes to an address in the Netherlands. You can order them at from 28 October 2021 or by telephone from Collect Club’s customer service on +31 88 - 868 99 00. The stamps will remain valid indefinitely.

For more information and photos, please contact:

PostNL Corporate Communication
T: 088 - 868 82 60