The QR Code

Okay, let’s get one thing straight: QR codes are a hassle.

I’m not sure why people are slapping them all over the place. Posters, t-shirts, cars, books, wristbands, water bottles… they’re everywhere. And half of them lead the user to the a web address that’s printed within inches of the code. It’s annoying.
If there’s a webpage you want someone to go to, put that web address on there instead of a QR code. Web addresses stick in people’s minds, and then later that night when they’re at their computers, they’ll type in that web address and take a look. If you completely replace the web address with the QR code, you’re losing that entire audience. Only retired people have time to go around scanning QR codes for just a simple web page.
I know they look trendy and futuristic, but they’re a waste of space and a layout designer’s nightmare. A QR code is the easiest way to ruin a well-designed poster. But I have to concede, they aren’t all bad.

I was completely against them, until I saw a flyer in one of the buildings on campus. It was simple, black Calibri font on white printer paper:

{QR code}
Your New Favorite Band

And then later that day I came across this postcard-sized flyer for our local music festival:

These are acceptable ways to use a QR code. Cool ones, even. They give you a reason to whip out your phone, open the app, and scan it. It’s worth the effort. And, specifically in the first one, the QR code preserves a sort of secrecy.
But good uses like these are hard to find, and still questionable. An ambiguous web address would serve the exact same purpose. However, the QR code helps people who can’t afford to buy an ambiguous, easy-to-remember web address.
So, there are pros and cons, but we all know the annoying QR codes far outweigh the acceptable ones. To help me end QR proliferation, ask yourself these questions before you slap one on your company’s freebie magnet:

  • Is the online content worth the audience’s time?
  • Do I make it clear that the content is worth their time?
  • Could I replace it with an easy-to-remember webpage?
  • Am I trying to keep the content a secret?

Also, I would like to make it clear, once and for all: these things are not “cute.”


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