Barcodes That Make You Smile

You’ve heard of vanity license plates; now think of vanity barcodes. In the U.S., Vanity Barcodes, a business started by Reuben and Yael Miller of Miller Creative in New Jersey, has turned these boring UPC codes into decorative elements. They have a number of barcode designs in stock or will customize one to your preference.

The idea of disguising this inventory management device into something else is believed to have originated in Japan with Design Barcode in 2004. The agency made the barcodes an integral part of the packaging design, tying it into the brand or cleverly building the stripes and digits into a line drawn picture.

As simple as this concept may seem, it’s not one that designers should try on their own. As both Vanity Barcodes and Design Barcode emphasize every manipulated barcode has to be thoroughly tested to make sure it gives accurate readings when passed through a retail scanner.

One thought on “Barcodes That Make You Smile

  1. I am disappointed in @Issue for not researching this topic thoroughly. ran almost the same article in November 2009 and got it wrong:

    I echo my comment here:
    “Barcode Revolution (d-barcode) receives the only Titanium Lion at Cannes in 2006. Now they are getting mention on for their ‘innovative’ – might I say expensive – custom UPC designs.

    Well, the late Rick Tharp – founder of Tharp Did It! – did it no less than 20 years earlier.”

    On another note, the assertion “it’s not one that designers should try on their own” – which you attribute to Design Barcode and Vanity Barcodes – is contradicted on the Fast Company blog by Miller herself.

    “It’s not hard to do, and certainly doesn’t warrant a price tag of $4000 for a custom design.

    Here’s one example I did for a marshmallow brand’s packaging:

    Come on, designers! Don’t be afraid to try it!”


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