QR Codes: Know Them, Use Them

Shea and I are not exactly cutting edge when it comes to, well, anything, really. For instance, I still own a VCR, Zip disks, and tapered jeans. Shea still has that haircut.

Bearing that in mind, this post is about technology that is not widely used just yet, but it’s coming. It’s completely free, extremely useful, easy to use, and—get ready for a cutting-edge technical term—kinda neat.

You may have noticed that QR Codes, the bar code-looking squares like the one here, are popping up in print and online more and more. QR (“Quick Response”) Codes direct people with smart phones to whatever kind of information you choose to provide—contact information, narrative text, or a URL, to name a few examples. The code here directs you to the Interpretation By Design website that you are currently reading. It’s not the most creative thing I could have posted here, but I figured some of you would want to use this image as your Facebook profile picture.

Like tapered jeans, QR codes have been around for a long time—in this case since 1994—but with the increasing popularity of smart phones, they are just now poised to really take off. QR Codes were developed in Japan by the company Denso-Wave primarily for industrial use. But pop culture has gotten hold of them, and now you can see them in Pet Shop Boys videos or even create your own QR Code T-shirts on sites like zazzle.com. The codes are starting to pop up more in the visual environment at varying scales, as with this photo by Nicolas Raoul taken in Japan in 2009:

From this we can learn two important things: 1. Technology can be used in fun and creative ways, and 2. The Pet Shop Boys are still making videos.

It’s easy to create a QR Code. Just visit one of the many website that generate the codes, such as zxing.appspot.com/generator or qrcode.kaywa.com (just to name two of the many that come up when you search “QR Code Generator” on the internet), plug in your information, and tell the site to generate the code. What you get is an image file that can be downloaded for use in print or online.

To read a QR Code, all you need is a smart phone and an app called a QR Code Reader. I have an iPhone and use a free app called QR Reader. There are plenty of similar apps for other smart phones. When you open the app, it will activate your phone’s camera. Just point the camera at the code and your phone will do the rest.

Beginning with the November/December issue, Legacy magazine will include a QR Code directing readers to the National Association for Interpretation’s website, www.interpnet.com. You could use a QR code on an trailside panel to provide visitors more information on a topic. You could place one on your business card or nametag at a conference to easily share contact information, in a newsletter to direct potential donors to a website, or in a blog to direct readers to a photo of an adorable puppy, which I have done here.

When you use QR Codes, not everyone will know what they are, but for the ever-increasing number of people who do know what they’re looking at, you’ll have created the opportunity to engage with your media at a deeper level.