To QR Code Or Not To QR Code, That Is The Question

Lately, when thinking of ideas for business card designs, we’ve come across clients requesting to include QR codes in them. Their reason? Because many others are also doing it. So is including QR codes into your business card design a good thing or a bad thing?

First Up – What’s A QR Code Anyway?

QR code in its simplest explanation, is a two-dimensional barcode. It’s designed to be machine readable. And because it’s two-dimensional, instead of the regular one-dimension barcode, it can store exponentially higher amounts of data. And people are taking advantage of the increased data storage density to include in all sorts of information. Anything from parts serial numbers in an assembly plant to coding in all of your contact details in addition to your name.

And also because of the vast storage capacity, people tend to stuff in as much information as they possibly can. We see contact details that include not only your office addresses and office phone numbers, but also your two mobile numbers, three email addresses, four social media accounts, your home address, your car registration, your wife’s car registration, your dog’s name, your cat’s name, and even the hotel of your favourite holiday getaway. Yes, that’s right. Since there’s so much storage capacity, why would you want to waste it, right?…

The Purpose Of A Business Card

The main (or should I say sole) purpose of a business card, is to share your contact details. With the exception of special (read: weird) die-cut designs, all business cards are generally the size of a credit card. There’s only so much real estate for you to fill your contact details on.

What’s generally put onto the business card are your name, your title, the company you represent, the office address, office phone number(s), and your corporate logo (if any). In the advent of mobile phones and internet by the late 1990s, mobile number, corporate website and email address are also common features on business cards too.¬†And that’s really all the information that you need on a business card.

But there are needs, and then there are wants… And the list for wants is pretty long… Many people crack their heads trying to figure out what they can print on their cards without cramming in too much information.

The Best Business Card Designs Actually Have Very Little Printed On Them

If you’ve read Sometimes, Less Is Actually More, you’d have realised that a good design is one that has lot’s of empty spaces, and very little information actually printed on it. It’s already tough trying to design a very lean advertising poster with all that printable real estate. And it’s gonna be many times more difficult to design a business card with that very limited printable space.

We’re not going to delve too much into the dynamics of what makes a good business card design. But it’s generally accepted that the more open spaces you can see on your card surface, the less tired your eyes would be looking at it. Hence, we strive to leave as much open space as possible, enabling your corporate colours to shine through.

How To Cram More Information Onto An Already Limited Space?

“Yes, that’s very nice and all… But there’s still a lot of information that I want to convey to my clients. I want to describe to them all the services that we offer. Not to mention all the other branches we have all over the world.”

Yeah, that’s a pretty common feedback from clients… So does it mean the advent of QR code was the saviour?… Now that you can literary cram in all the information that you want, without actually printing them at all?

Well… yes and no… Yes, you can actually code all the words that you need to tell your story with into a single QR code. And then simply print that QR code onto your business card. Problem solved!…

Hmm… Not quite, because if you really go down to it, QR codes are meant to be read by machines, not humans. They need a “tool” to translate all that information into words that humans can read and understand.

Enter The World Of Smartpsmhones

With the introduction of smartphones at the turn of the 21st century, they soon became the Swiss army knives of the digital world. Just about any digital tool you need can be done on the smartphone. And that includes having a QR code reader too.

Armed with a QR code reader in your pocket, scanning and translating QR codes from business cards became possible. And this actually pushed many “trend chasers” to add a QR code onto their business cards. And with that, the latest trend of including QR codes into business cards becomes the norm.

The Problem Is… And There Is One…

Getting more information onto a limited space is now technologically possible. But is getting all that information onto the business card even a sound practice? How many business card recipients (like us) have the patience to read and absorb all that plentiful information?

Before we even get to reading the translated information, how many of us are even inclined to scan the cards in the first place? And to those of us who don’t bother scan the said QR codes, it’s nothing more than just another “useless” design feature, competing for attention on the already limited real estate.

The Psychology Of Human Attention

The thing about how the human brain works is that, the more information you provide, the lazier the brain becomes. On the other hand, the less information you provide, the more you’ll tease the mind to find out more. And the harder the brain works to reveal the “hidden information” the more likely the brain will retain the said information in permanent memory.

Ultimately, getting your identity into the permanent memory of your audience is the goal of all branding exercises. Hence, a good branding strategy is to decide just how much information you want to convey directly, and how much to hold back.

It comes as no surprise that most effectively branded companies have very simple business card designs indeed.

Should You Include QR Code Into Your Next Business Card Design?

The decision is ultimately up to you. Do you want to appear hip and trendy? If you do, then go ahead and include it into your business card. But be forewarned that you’ll risk looking obsolete fool and and a blind trend follower in the next year or two. After all, trend is just like fashion. It’s all hot and happening right now. But don’t expect it to last forever.

The QR code printed on business cards today is similar to the rainbow (pseudo 3D) stock card back in the 1980s, the gold hot-stamp craze in the 1990s, and selective UV coating in early 2000s. All of them were the hottest trend during their heydays. But seeing a business card with those designs today?… I wouldn’t be surprised that you’ll now thumb your nose at them, seeing just how outdated their designs are.

Food for thought – would other people thumb their noses at you when you hand them your business card with QR code in four or five years?…

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