Have you been noticing more and more quick response (QR) codes on the El, window panels and checkout counters? Well, there’s a good reason for that: QR codes are becoming one of biggest things in marketing today. They make it easy to bridge online information with the offline world. Easy to access from anywhere, thanks to your iPhone, Android or camera-ready smartphone, QR codes are perfect tools for companies looking to engage audiences.
However, QR codes have one significant drawback: they are spectacularly ugly. Marketers are reluctant to devote a corner of their ad to a box of jarring black pixels, and rightly so. Thankfully, QR codes are getting a bit of a makeover. Savvy designers and marketers are starting to customize QR codes, opening up exciting new ways to use QR codes to support your brand.
Customized QR codes are essentially the same QR codes that you’re used to but enhanced with branding elements. They transform an aesthetically unpleasant black and white code into a more appealing one that integrates your color scheme, logo and anything else that sets your brand apart. Another important benefit of customized QR codes is that users can easily associate the custom code with your company. Since they trust you, a customized code serves as a certificate of authenticity that the code is safe to scan.
The trick of customizing QR codes is striking the perfect balance between customized and broken. If you customize a QR code too much, it won’t scan right, and people will never get to your site. The codes have a generous built-in error correction—up to 30% in some cases. How do you know when you’re within that 30% margin?
The answer is simple trial and error. When I customize a QR code, I start with a fairly simple design—maybe just a logo placed in the center of the code box. Then, I progressively customize the code design until it can no longer be scanned. This might seem daunting at first, but after a few designs you’ll be able to pinpoint a happy medium where the code complements your brand and still works. Also, keep in mind that the colors you use may affect whether your code can be scanned or not. Avoid using light colors on a light background—there needs to be contrast between the blocks of color and the background in order for the code to be read.
Interested in customizing your own QR code?
1) First, you will want to use a QR code generator to make a raw QR code. A good site to use is qrcode.kaywa.com. You will also want to download a QR reader onto your iPhone, Android or camera-ready smartphone.
2) Once you’ve generated your QR code, right-click on it to copy and then paste it into your favorite image editing program. (I use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.)
3) Build your custom layers on top of your raw QR code. Try to visually integrate design elements into the code rather than simply stacking them on top of each other.
4) Test your design with your code reader to make sure that you haven’t exceeded the built-in error correction.
5) Repeat until you have created a brand-enhancing code that can still be scanned.
Or if your Photoshop skills are a little rusty (or non-existent), you can always contact us for some custom QR code design.
And now, for a little inspiration: here are a few examples of appealing customized QR codes.
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