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September 2022
7 Min read

The anatomy of a QR code

Irina Yaroshenko

International Sales Manager +4314120126

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Have you ever wondered why a QR code looks like this? What do all those squares mean and how is the information encrypted there?

Shall we figure it out?

We got the whole technical part in full from a tweet by product designer Dan Hollick (you can read it in its entirety here

But we will share something else of interest

History first

In the 1960s, Japan entered an economic boom, and supermarkets experienced an incredible increase in sales. However, supermarket cashiers had to enter the price manually, which was inefficient. With the invention of the barcode and the POS system in the 1970s, cashiers could instantly transmit prices to computers and calculate the total cost of a purchase. However, the barcode could only contain 20 digits, which included basic product information. At a time of massive sales growth, companies needed to track logistical information that the barcode could not contain.

Discovering this limitation, Denso Wave, the Japanese company that originally developed the barcode reader, decided to create a code that could contain more information, including even Japanese characters.

In 1994, they officially announced the creation of the QR code, QR stands for “quick response”.

By the way! Denso Wave, the company that invented the qr codes, never used their patent and released the technology for free!

The anatomy of QR codes

The most distinctive feature of a QR code is these cube shapes, called lookup patterns, which help the reader locate the code.

A smaller fourth cube, the Alignment Pattern, orients the code so that it can be at any angle and the reader will still know which way it is positioned.

Each QR code has alternating black and white dots called a timing pattern.

The format information is stored in these two bars next to the Finder templates. It is stored twice, so it can be read even if the QR code is partially hidden. (You will notice that this is a recurring theme).

The three most important pieces of information are stored here:

– Mask.

– Error correction level

– Error correction format.

Error correction – what is it?

Basically, it determines how much redundant information is stored in the code so that it remains readable, even if part of it is missing.

If your code is outdoors, you can select a higher level of redundancy to ensure that it continues to function when hidden from view.

QR-readers work best when the number of white and black areas is the same.

But the data may not match, so a mask is used for alignment.

Finally we get to the actual data.

Oddly enough, the data starts at the bottom right-hand corner and curls backwards, as shown. It almost doesn’t matter where they start, because they can be read from any angle.

Some things you should know

Qr codes can be ineffective for different types of products.

For example, if it is a low-involvement product, that is, one that people spend less time buying (such as a candy bar or soap), people are less likely to scan the code because they think it is redundant and unable to provide enriching information.

(source: European Journal of Marketing R. Trivedi, T. Teichert, and D. Hardeck, “Effectiveness of pull-based print advertising with QR codes: The role of consumer involvement and advertisement appeal,”)

However, for products with a high degree of involvement, such as fitness classes, and banking services, customers will look favorably on the QR code because it provides more information.

#qrcode #marketing #feedback

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