Should Designer QR Codes Be Formal Or Fun?

Are designer QR Codes in the West more formal and serious than those in East Asia? Boryeong in South Korea is not only well known for its Mud Festival but also for its fresh farm produce and seafood. At this years festival the city produced bright and colorful designer QR Codes for 22 of its agricultural and fisheries products (examples below). The QR Codes resolve to mobile sites with more information on the particular product, such as the Blue Crabs in the screenshots below.

Designer QR Code from South Korea 1
Designer QR Code from South Korea 2
Designer QR Code from South Korea 3
Mobile site for Boryeong blue crabs

12 thoughts on “Should Designer QR Codes Be Formal Or Fun?”


    Or so the non argument goes… 🙂

    From my experience, if people know what a QR code is, it makes no difference whether designer or black and white – they can recognise it just fine. If they don’t already know about QR codes, they might be more inclined to scan when it has an association with a brand they recognise. But they will also recognise future codes wether mono or full colour.

    So that just leaves the use case. Is it appropriate and/or cost effective to use a designer code rather than mono for this project?

  2. Well, if the code isn’t scannable, “designer” or not, it’s worthless. I have 3 QR Code readers on my phone, not a single one of which could read all 3 codes.

  3. I’ve talked to SET about this a lot. From what I understand Asian cultures are a lot more open to accepting things that look “cute” rather then in the US we categorize them as things for kids. I think its cultural, but also driven by marketing and branding guidelines.

    Patrick, QrArts

  4. Aaron, you have fallen into the trap of discussing how scannable they are. The question is whether designer codes can do more to attract people, from a marketing point of view, rather than how it affects the scanning. Obviously they should be scannable.

    As you bring it up though, can you say which apps you tried? I tried a number out and only the second code failed on some of them – the worst, most basic apps.

  5. As long as they are readable, if the codes are branded or don’t seem so generic, people are more likely to scan it, because they know what they are scanning. All of these codes were readable with i-nigma and Scan-it. No problem, they barely had to see the code. Here in the US where people aren’t as familiar with the codes, the most important thing is to include instructions. Here is an example of a custom code, that still looks like a QR, but is a lot friendlier than the generic.

  6. I have seen lots of creative QR Codes, but not as cutesy as these! Scanned with 3 QR Code scanners on iPhone. Both i-nigma and QRafter opened all 3, Optiscan opened only first 2. Not sure that the design is worth the loss of scanability to share the message!

  7. Why in the world would you pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to get a designer qrcode if you are gonna be so serious about it. A regular qr would be free and would do the same.
    Say funny, my friend.

  8. Steve O’Connor- Get caught in the trap of discussing their scanability? If you can’t scan the code, what good does it do printing it? Sure, artsy-farsty codes will attract attention in ads, but if they can’t be reliably scanned, it’s just going to piss off potential buyers.

    The three apps I have on my phone, are Barcode Scanner by ZXing, NeoReader and ScanLife.

  9. Well it’s good to see that the brands that are spending money on the designer Tags are investing in mobile experiences as well!

    @Aaron and @Stephanie bring up some good points regarding the ability for the codes to actually scan. Without a clear call out for which reader to use, it results in a broken experience. I imagine that most consumers will assume that any reader should read any QR code, but as you all know that’s not the case.

    Nick Martin
    Online Community Manager
    Microsoft Tag

  10. I think that QR codes can be either formal or fun. I have the Scanlife App on my phone (HTC Evo 4G) and was able to read each of the above. I think that color and design brings the codes to life which lends to more engaging activity. I’ve been a fan of QR codes for about a year now and have learned what I know from reading. I have the QR DROID 4 on my phone which creates colorful codes and I’ve been sharing my new found knowledge and enthusiasm with my family friends.

  11. I love QR codes because of their ability to bring the offline community online. I educate people who I come in contact with about free scanner apps and their compatibility with different smartphones and tablets. I then explain what a QR code is and the benefits and advantages of creating and using them. Formal and fun have so many great uses and there are various products from signage to temporary tattoos. I’m in no way an expert or trying to portray that I am but I’ve found that I can help small business owners that I know personally by introducing them to QR codes and actually creating them on the spot and sending the code to them for immediate use. OMG… and it’s free.

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