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A Sustainable Design Blog

When to Use a QR Code

by Jennifer Stewart | Jun 29, 2014 | Advice

QR codes are not exactly new, however they are as annoying to me today as they were the day that I first came across one. Not that the QR code itself is a problem, it’s just that most people do not use these things logically and therefore usually waste ink and precious page space. This month, however, marks the first time that we have ever suggested to a client the use of a QR code and to celebrate this landmark I have compiled a list of when it is appropriate, inappropriate and stupid to these little pixel puzzles.

Appropriate Use

Complicated URLs – If you want to lead someone to a page with a long URL such as then a QR code saves them a lot of typing. Of course so would a shortened URL from or, so consider using it only if the customer is a...

Moving Target – Your customer may be riding an escalator, a passenger in car, on a busy walkway, or in transit. In all cases, they can’t stop for long, so they will appreciate being able to make three clicks to their phone in order to scan a QR code that gives them a coupon or map, rather than having to punch in a URL or search.

Sourcing Info – If you can link a bag of coffee back to it’s country of origin, the farmer who grew it, and tell me the story about how it got to me, that’s badass! Ethical Bean does this and then links it to a QR code and puts it on their package. If someone takes the time to scan the code, they'll probably buy because they'll feel more informed about the product.

Allergen Info – Some companies allergen test every batch of food. This is rare, but for companies that do it, like Zego bars, they can link proof of your batch testing to every package, giving people a reason to trust them.


Inappropriate Use

In Place of Your URL – Unless your URL is 40 characters long (in which case you should change your URL) there is no reason why you should give a QR code instead of the actual URL. Using a QR code instead of your URL basically says “the old people who work here foolishly thought using this square pixelated thing would make them look hip and tech-savvy.”

Directing them to your Social Media – If you want me to follow you on Twitter, give me your Twitter handle rather than taking me to your Twitter page. No one goes to Twitter’s site. We have apps specifically so we can avoid it.

Because it was Free – I once saw a printer advertise a “Free QR Code” if you used their mailing service. All QR codes are free. You can generate a QR code right now. See? Totally free. Don’t be a sucker.


Asinine Use

Hair Cut – Whoever paid you to do this has more money than sense.

Crop Circles – Impressive, but the aliens may not have QR readers.

Tattoos – Hopefully this directs someone to a page that says "The only decisions I make are bad ones."

Baby Names – I don't care how much you love the artist formerly known as Prince, a symbol is not a name. Your child will make plenty of bad decisions without your assistance.


The World’s Best Use

Taking someone to This URL.




Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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There is only one thing worse in the world than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.- Oscar Wilde