Say what you will about QR (Quick Response) codes: they are just a fad, they will be forgotten once augmented reality takes hold or they’re just an extra step in inputting a URL but they are here and people are enjoying using them, so make the most of them! QR codes, if you haven’t heard of them or clicked the link above to see the whole explanation, are scanned via a reader application (usually on your smart phone) that will take you to a video or web page.
They have been used in Japan for over a decade (invented by a Toyota subsidiary, Densu Wave), and now the rest of the world is catching up. So in turn, you can’t fight technology so make the best of it.
One of the most popular design practices with QR codes is to insert images within the code.
Even small images, scattered throughout the code can cover or delete needed code blocks and/or be read as information by the scanner.
According to QRStuff.com, “Compromising the scanning safety margin of the QR code by adding an image to it can also be further complicated if the scanning software interprets any part of the embedded image as actual data, and then decodes the contents of the QR code incorrectly.”
Hints from that article are surely words to the wise: If you are going to tackle it yourself, here’s a few pointers on do’s and don’ts if you’re attempting to put an image into a standard QR code that hasn’t been specifically created to accommodate one:
Keep the size of the embedded image well below 20% of the area of the QR code itself – 15% is probably the best compromise.
Put the image in the middle of the QR code and definitely don’t obscure any of the 3 big squares in the corners (they have a special purpose and must be retained).
Always leave a white border (1-2 times the width of a single data square in the QR code image) all the way around the edge of the embedded image so that the data areas of the QR code are separated from the image.
Make sure that all the data squares left in the QR code are intact – remove any partially obscured squares completely.
Check that the embedded image doesn’t coincidentally contain any small square (or squarish) elements that may be interpreted by the scanning device as part of the QR code’s data, rather than being ignored as part of the image.
Most QR code scanning devices scan in grey-scale so using contrasting colors to differentiate the image from the QR code is not going to help you at all.
It’s probably also a good idea to make the QR code image larger than you would have if it didn’t have an image in it.
If your head is spinning, perhaps it’s better to seek out software that will do this for you. With all this in consideration, one finds a huge amount of respect for those who created the previous samples as well as this one for Wired:
If you haven’t seen enough yet, check out this video of a whole art gallery dedicated to the QR Code: