How to Upgrade Your QR Codes to "Designer" Status

How to Upgrade Your QR Codes to "Designer" Status
Source:, April 28, 2011
Hamilton Chan, CEO and founder of Paperlinks, discusses the designability of QR codes in a recent article posted at

QR codes no longer have to be limited to black and white checkerboxes.

"Designer codes” can now be produced and integrated visually into marketing campaigns. Knowing how to implement technical and design innovations in the right way for your business can help keep your brand on the leading edge of marketing technology.

Here are a few ideas on how QR codes can enhance your brand by making them the central artwork in your marketing collateral.

1. Add a Color Palette: You can embed multiple colors and apply a color gradient without affecting scanability. The only rule of thumb is that the code color should generally be dark and placed against a light-colored background to ensure sufficient contrast.

2. Soften Hard Edges with Round Corners: Lessen the severity of traditional hard edges by rounding the code's corners, making it more aesthetically friendly.

3. Incorporate Dimensionality for 3D Impact: Placing an image, such as a logo, in front of the code provides depth and stylistic impact. Images can be placed in the center, corners or even in between the boxes.

4. Use QR Codes With 30% Error Correction: The key to creating these attention-grabbing designer codes is knowing that up to 30% of a QR code’s data can be missing or obstructed, and still be scanned. QR codes can be generated with 0%, 10%, 20% or 30% error correction rates built in. Building codes with a 30% error correction rate (as opposed to the 0%, 10% or 20% options) requires more boxes initially, but those boxes can then be removed to make space for the logo or other image.

5. Finally, use a trial-and-error process to test for ultimate scannability. Be sure to test your code's design with multiple QR readers, ideally three or four. Some readers may be able to overcome some stylistic elements of your designer code, whereas others will not. If a designer code takes more than a few seconds to scan, it probably needs to be redesigned.

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