The QR code has had a resurgence since the pandemic hit in early 2020. Many restaurants shifted from having printed menus to having QR codes on their tables and their signage. But what happened to QR codes, and where did they go.
Invented 25 years ago, Hara Masahiro created the Quick Response (QR) Code. It was developed to replace a barcode system because it was inefficient; employees at the company he worked at had to scan boxes multiple times. (Full Story)
As a designer, I hated them. It was a square white box with smaller black ones that had no personality. Not only that, people would have to download a separate application on their mobile device to make it work. I used them on packaging, postcards & posters. We would code in custom URLs to track interactions, and we never got a hit. In my design life, it was rarely used and would persuade customers not to use them. They slowly faded away in my work until March 2020.
I was designing a 200+ page companion book for The Hairdresser Power Challenge Show when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Salons across the nation were closed or operated at a limited capacity due to pandemic restriction. The initial plan was to have the book displayed in every salon that promoted the show and Enjoy hair products. One of the closure's limitations was not to have items customers can touch and possibly spread infections. The company was lucky; just before business closures, the company received quotes for printing, but the company never pulled the print trigger. The company still wanted to showcase the book to its partners and partner's customers nation-wide, so it pivoted.
The Company Pivots
It changed its tactics. Instead of shipping a 200-page book, the company sent window clings with a QR code that led readers to the book's content. It would have been a shame if the company didn't share the fantastic work of the stylist. You can scan the QR code with your smart device, and it would take you to a landing page hosting the book. There is their work: Hairdresser Power Challenge Beauty Book
Reintroducing the QR Code
Little did people know that a tool that so many marketers and designers hated on would come back. Almost considered extinct with little or no use in the consumer industry, the QR code became one of the most valued tools for many companies worldwide. Especially in restaurants that allowed limited seating capacity, it enabled businesses to provide a touch-free experience while keeping their customers safe. It offered their customers a digital menu to load on their phones by simply opening up their camera app, pointing it toward the QR Code, and voila information at your fingertips. A touchless experience that disabled the spread of infection, but most importantly, kept businesses running and connected with their customers.
In the beauty and cosmetics industry, the company took care of its partners by implementing the QR code. It enabled my company's partners to keep connected with their customers while visiting the salon at a limited capacity.
Since this project, it definitely opened our eyes. There is an application for every design element as long as it is functional and solves a particular problem.