Advertisers are smitten with the small, square patterns that can be scanned by smartphones.

FORTUNE — Think QR codes are monochrome and ugly? Think again. The codes, originally developed in Japan in the 1990’s and now growing in ubiquity everywhere else, are actually highly customizable and, in some cases, quite beautiful.

When Toyota subsidiary Denso originally developed QR codes in their black and white form, they were meant to serve a functional use as a means to track auto parts. But as the codes began being used for marketing — directing smartphone-equipped consumers to websites and interactive advertisements — they started receiving makeovers. Now, brands want to have their codes stand out.

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