... but Who is Using them Right?

Posted by Nicholas M. Roberts

A little while back I posted a list of [companies that are using QR codes for marketing]. While I am finding that this list is growing more and more each day, I am also discovering a factor I seldom considered.

The truth is this: QR codes are ugly. They look like mazes you can’t solve. If you didn’t know what one was, would you even care to find out? People who understand the capabilities of QR codes can take an adventure through their city, snapping photos in their favorite retail outlets, restaurants and even while they’re waiting for the bus or subway. People who don’t know are likely to glance right past one thinking “that’s not for me.”

But if a QR code is displayed publicly, it is meant for you.

I believe that since the QR codes are so ugly, people simply don’t have any idea of the fun they can have or the benefits they can find. Therefore, the best way to convert these people is to make the QR codes more appealing and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

It seems a number of companies share this same idea. I recently came across an article over at Mashable that lists sixteen creative QR codes. These are all real QR codes that have been developed by companies and include color and pictures within the data. You can view the article here.

How is this possible? Most QR code readers actually have what is called a 30% tolerance. What this means is that a certain percentage of a QR code’s data can be obstructed or missing, and the reader will be able to fill in that data. Even though some of them look obscure or even outrageous, all of these QR codes are functional. I have provided a brief summary of the codes you will find on the page along with a bit of my personal commentary.

  1. Ayara Thai Cuisine in Los Angeles. Their green and white QR code features an elegant and tactfully designed elephant. This is a great way of making a QR code more noticeable but without making customers feel like it’s being shoved in their faces.
  2. HBO’s QR code advertising their hit show True Blood appears as a series of blood drops. This design is very unique and is also very relevant to the program it is promoting.
  3. Magic Hat, the brewing company, has designed a QR code by arranging dozens of their bottle tops in an intricate fashion. Another example of relevancy.
  4. Help Japan Now, an earthquake relief program designed a QR code with the shape and color of a red cross. It also has silhouettes of medical supplies such as syringes, wheelchairs and stethoscopes tactfully strewn about within.
  5. Louis Vuitton. This one is the most in-your-face so far with bright purple, pink, yellow, orange and blue colors. However the panda bear in the center is certain to keep shoppers from being annoyed.
  6. Corkbin’s design is exquisite. It keeps a simple and classy color palette of browns and a dark red and it manages to include Corkbin’s own logo so there is at least some background provided for what you are about to scan.
  7. Disney’s approach is interesting. The QR codes feature portions of their famous animated characters’ faces. It looks almost as if they are using pin art toys.
  8. Discover LA, a tourism bureau, has a design that features two shades of solid blue and the LA skyline. It is both relevant and not too showy. This is one of my favorites.
  9. Pacman. This one is my absolute favorite and it proves my point that QR codes look like mazes. It seems to just be a test design, but I wonder if the creator Patrick Donnelly could sell it to Namco-Bandai, the company that owns the rights to Pacman.
  10. Greenfield Lodge uses the standard black and white design but they have added their logo, an orange flower, which stands out on top of the QR code.
  11. M&Ms. One more design by Patrick Donnelly. This one is much like the Magic Hat lids because it is comprised of a number of smaller objects. I don’t believe Mars, Inc. has endorsed this but I think there is potential for future collaboration.
  12. The Fillmore Silver Spring’s QR design pops out at anyone who looks at it. The contrast of orange and light blue on top of the standard black and white model is interesting and it represents Fillmore to the fullest with a large F printed in the center. There are also a few musical instrument silhouettes that add a nice touch.
  13. Another code not designed for a specific company, the Burton & Holmes model features a QR code within a QR code. Intriguing.
  14. The Wine Sisterhood’s QR code sports a nice feminine design complete with wine glasses speckled throughout.
  15. Time Magazine has discussed QR codes in the past but they have never incorporated one onto their cover. I enjoy SET’s versatility in using the code as water, sky and cowhide and I think it gives a feeling of familiarity to people who are reading but don’t quite understand QR codes.
  16. I don’t play Farmville but I liken the concept of in-game QR codes to crop circles. Hmm…crop codes…