Cats. Keyboards. QR Codes.

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably noticed these little gems popping up all over the place. The first time I really noticed them was while catching up on my celebrity gossip. There were a couple ads throughout the magazine that had these weird looking bar codes in the bottom corner of the page. I first thought of them as gimmicky… an unnecessary addition to the ad to make the marketing seem all technically savvy. Sort of like when DVDs first came out, and their ‘bonus feature’ was just a full screen commentary that you had to READ about how the director had some sort of revolutionary idea after waking up from a bad-sushi induced coma. Boooor-ing. I wanna see all the ridiculous out-takes 🙂

First off, if your unsure what a QR (Quick Response) code is, it is basically a 2 dimensional bar-code that when scanned with a smartphone, can link the viewer to multimedia digital content, such as websites, email, photos, YouTube videos etc,… basically anything you feel necessary. That’s right, they are free and super easy to create on your own!

Turns out they were first created in Japan by Toyota to track inventory, and I was surprised to find out that these codes have actually been around since 1994… which is only about 5 years younger than the internet. Funny that they are only really catching on now. Guess we needed smartphones to bring us up to speed.

Recently here at Pure Vision, I designed my first business card with a QR code on it that linked the customer to the companies website. I think it’s an effective little touch to drive people to your website, as long as they have a smartphone AND the app to read the code. I know a couple people that think these codes are the bees knees, and will scan any code they find just so they can hear that satisfying little ‘click’ of the scan, and then they’re off on a magical world wide web mystery tour. There are a bunch of apps out there for Blackberry’s, Androids or iPhones that will allow you to download a scanner to read the codes. This is the app I downloaded onto my iPhone.

Anyway, people have definitely jumped on the QR train, and codes are being used in the most unexpected places. There is a company that has started creating dog & cat tags with QR codes on them (as a dog owner, I think this is genius!). If someone finds your lost pet, they can scan the code and have access to contact details or vet information… whatever is needed to get them home safe. You could even state the warning fact that your dog has an un-necessary love for chewing on EXPENSIVE shoes,…. whatever helps get your pet home to you.

A man in Israel recently made headlines when he decided to place a tombstone embedded with a QR code on the grave of his late mother. He linked the code to a tribute website, which he plans to continue evolving with photos and stories of his mothers life. I could see this catching on with people, just due to the ongoing memorial aspect of it. Then again, it may degrade the respect and privacy of the person that has passed, since again, anyone with a smartphone can easily access whatever the code is linked to.

Then there is the tattoo artist in Paris, who this past June created the first ever ‘animated tattoo’ by inking a client with a QR code that linked to a short animation that brought the tattoo to life. Check out the video here.

One of the coolest aspects of these little codes, is that they also have a ton of potential from a design perspective. As long as a their scan-ability is maintained (guidelines can be found online) you can make those boring black and white versions into a custom work of art, which can effectively add to the appeal of your marketing campaign or brand.

Whether you think QR codes are just a fad that will have its 5 minutes in the limelight or not, there is no doubt that due to our increasing reliability on everything ‘mobile’, QR codes make information even more accessible. There isn’t even any need to type out URLs or other data on your phone. Just aim and scan. The potential for QR codes is pretty much limitless, and with the powerful combination of technology and design, they are a very strong option for linking the physical and digital world together…

… Or you to a cat wearing a fancy shirt while playing a keyboard. (yes. scan it)

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