QR Code Art - and Stylised QR Codes
Most QR Codes are pretty dull to look at, after all a black and white grid is not being very pleasing to the eye, well they don't have to be that way. A lot of companies and artists are making a real effort to make their QR Codes more appealing and draw attention from passers by.
When designed right, QR Codes can achieve that, not only catching someones attention but also making people curious or even driving excitement about scanning them. The QR Code then has that added benefit of providing a seamless portal into the digital world. This has big advantages if you get it right.
When you're designing a QR Code, you don't just have a grid of black and white squares to work with. You can use multiple colours (see also: QR Codes - Do They Have To Be B&W?) and can also take advantage of error correction techniques built into the specification to switch out a few squares to make an image appear with the code. (more on error correction further down)
Making your QR Code interesting, ensures that of the millions of QR Codes out there, people notice and take the time to scan yours. Lets get started with a few of the best examples out there today.
This one is pretty simple but effective. Its a tribute to Steve Jobs. The QR Code itself has been padded with additional fake squares so as to allow the designer to build it up to the shape of the Apple logo.
Bob Marley - This QR Code links to a Wikipedia page, but the use of colours in the code also paints an image of Bob Marley himself, any fans would see this as instantly recognisable. Careful consideration has to be made during the design phase that ensures foreground and background blocks are clearly distinguishable.
In this QR Code created for Instagram (the popular photo sharing network), the traditionally black squares that form part of the image have been replaced with actual small photos. you can see this a lot more clearly in this expanded image. From a QR Code readers point of view, this presents no problems in decoding the image, but from a marketing perspective, it represents the Instagram brand and exactly what they are known for.
In this QR Code, Wikipedia have literally split the code in 2, and their very recognisable logo crosses right through the middle. But this doesn't make the QR Code unreadable, and scanners will still decode it. The Wiki brand image very much fits with the standard black and white QR Code design therefore no colour is needed
There are a lot of codes that we could talk about, but we wont go into the details of each, here are a lot more examples of the artistic uses of QR Codes.
As you can see, people can get very artistic with their QR Codes. All of these should work if you take the time to scan them with your barcode scanner. Most of them will take you to the artist or companies website.
The reason images and logos can be displayed within QR Codes is mainly down to the built in error correction. The error correction allows up to 30% of a QR Codes to be corrupt while still remaining readable to a barcode reader. This means that you can use up to 30% of the QR Codes surface area to include your logo and fancy designs. If you want to know more about the technical limitations of a QR Code and its Error Correction, be sure to read QR Codes - Technical Limitations
Another way to achieve this is via Frame QR Codes, which are a newer type of QR Code also created by Denso Wave, they have a pre-cleared canvas area in the centre of the code when they are generated, and so don't rely on error correction. But they are not compatible with existing QR Code scanners therefore its best to avoid them where possible.
As well as including designs on the surface of the code, some Artists have included a code within their artwork. Frank Haase is such an artists. He created an interesting sculpture that provide viewers with different codes depending on the angle they are viewed from. They are all valid and can be scanned by anyone viewing them.
Another artist who took an interest in QR Codes is Edinburgh-based artist Trevor Jones who painted a series of oil paintings that after experimenting with colour, tone and design, he was able to "camouflage" QR codes inside. Be sure to check out how it all began for Trevor as well as his paintings.
Finally there's Yiying Lu who's stunning paintings include a QR Code you can scan that will present you with a video of the artist painting the picture.