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QR Codes – fad or real trend?

We were recently asked by a client to include QR codes on some marketing material we were designing for them. To be honest, this was our first venture into this new technology and it created a hot debate in the studio as to whether they were just a gimmick or the real deal. QR codes are all the rage right now and it seems more and more people are integrating them into their marketing strategy.

A QR code is designed to save time and encourage interaction. Whilst not everyone knows what they are or how to use them – many do and more will each day as they become more widely used. Every smartphone on the market now has many free QR code scanning applications available for download. Once you have an app on your phone, you can use your phones camera to ‘scan’ the QR code. The QR code usually contains a web address (URL) that the phone can then access without the user having to type anything. Therein lies the convenience – scan a QR code in seconds and you can be viewing more detailed information on your phone’s internet browser almost immediately.
The downside for us at least is they are bloody ugly (unless you have a thing for monochromatic symmetry) and they need to be at least an inch by an inch in size so they can be read properly by your phone. So including them in your design can pose a real challenge and their use should be carefully considered.. ie..  are we willing to sacrifice the design, for the convenience they pose to the end user? I think the answer lies in where you use them. Sticking them on a business card means they are going to take up a fair chunk of real estate on the card, yet if they were on a sign or a poster, ie a real estate signboard or a poster in your local establishment that was promoting next weeks gig, then they can probably be included without dominating the design.  
All in all I think any technology that makes it easier for the user to get to what you want them to look at quickly is a good thing. 

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