QR Magic

QR codes are starting to take over in marketing. Businesses see potential in a small, unobtrusive combination of squares, unreadable by humans. There is a factor of curiosity, not knowing what message is contained within the QR code, that might compel people to scan them.

But I don’t think it works.

I have yet to scan a QR code I’ve seen in public. Why? I’m just not interested. A lot of us have become used to ignoring ads on websites and TV, and posters and newspaper ads get similar treatment.

So, if the code has all this wasted potential, what else can you do with them? Why not make it unique?


I’m not going to simply paraphrase or recap the thoroughly-detailed piece Hackaday has already published. Instead, I will just go over how I did mine, and the information I gathered in the process.

Why does it still work with missing information?

Like many electronic devices, QR codes have a certain level of error correction. This means that some data can be missing, or plain wrong, and the information will remain intact.

At the website I used to generate my raw QR codes, you may choose how much error correction you desire, from 7% to 30%. This roughly means that you can delete this percentage of blocks and still have a readable message.

What data can I remove?

There is some information you cannot remove:

Black in this graphic will always be black, white pixels in this graphic will always be white, red is a “keep out zone,” and gray is “don’t care.” The alternating black and white band on the top and left side of the QR code is the ‘timing pattern.’ This is the little bit that divides everything on the QR code into columns and rows.

-Hackaday, Brian Benchoff

(I only quoted them because I couldn’t have put it any better myself, and the picture was available).

Other than that, as long as you respect the error correction percentage, you can remove a lot of stuff. For my logo, I kept it simple by removing a section from the direct center:

After testing that it still worked, I added my name and website logo elements, and added some simulated data block to seem as though my name kind of blended in with the rest of the code, without actually touching squares.

Really, the styling and final result is entirely up to you. You can add and change as much as you want, as long as you do not change more than 30% of the code, and do not modify the timing strip or the alignment boxes.

Isn’t this better than ads?

Of course, QR codes are not only used for ads. They can be used in tourist destinations to provide links to additional information about a landmark, for example.

There is a lot more artistry that can be applied to these codes than advertising can do justice. Even if QR codes aren’t the best way to get a message across, if you make it unique, make it your own, it will get a lot more attention.

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Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 life, projects

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