One result of the pandemic is skyrocketing consumer demand for a contactless world.
This increased demand has resulted in many headlines proclaiming the “Return of the QR Code,” though we agree with the New York Times that the code never went away. What has changed is that both consumers and brands now recognize the mutual benefits of QR codes.
To fully leverage this QR growth as a brand, follow the QR code design best practices below to ensure consumers can easily interact with your codes. Also see the Top 20 NFC and QR Uses of 2020 to spark new ideas for how to make QR codes work for you.
QR Code Specifications
Specifications for QR design depend on whether you are using codes for print, digital or out of home (OOH) applications.
Printed QR Codes
For print applications, such as QR codes on packaging or in magazines, use the following specifications.
- Minimum Width: 0.4 inches (10 mm), excluding margin, is the minimum size for scanning standard, ISO 18004-compliant QR codes.
- Recommend Width: However, increase the width to 0.47 inches (12 mm), excluding margin, if possible to ensure best performance.
Custom QR Codes
QR codes do not have to be the traditional black and white design. Brands today are incorporating custom colors, logos and more into the design. For more details, see how and why to create a custom QR code.
However, the specifications for these codes are slightly different than traditional QR codes, namely that the minimum size increases.
Custom QR Code Best Practices
- Minimum Width for Custom QR Codes: 0.78 inches (2 cm)
- Recommended Width for Custom QR Codes: At least 1.375 inches (30 mm)
- No Inverted Codes. Do not use a QR code with light dots on a dark background
- Use High Contrast. Be sure the QR code color contrasts with the background, or it may not be readable.
Digital QR Codes
For digital applications, the following specification assumes a 1080p display.
- Minimum Digital QR code width: 240 pixels at 72 dpi
Since many digital QR codes are incorporated into signage, keep in mind that the minimum code size will need to increase depending on the distance between the code and the person scanning. The signage section below, which includes digital and print, addresses the calculation for this distance.
OOH QR Codes on Digital and Physical Signage
Because those scanning may not be directly next to the sign, you’ll need to increase the QR code size depending on how far away they will be.
- Ratio of Scanning Distance to QR Code Size: 10:1
For example, if a code on a billboard will be scanned at a distance of 10 feet, the code should be at least 1 foot wide.
Number of QR Codes
When possible, use only one QR code per application. This creates focus on the action you want consumers to take. It also prevents phone cameras from jumping focus from code to code.
However, there will be times when you need to put more than one QR code on an application. Usually, this should only be done when the user is at arms length of the code to allow them the flexibility to move the camera to focus on a single code. This does not work well on large signage at a distance (a billboard, for example).
When you use more than one QR code, increase the empty space around each one to ensure the consumer can focus their camera on just one code.
Regardless of application, the margins around a QR code should be equivalent to at least four data modules.
QR code modules are the dots that make up QR code. Keep in mind that the number of modules can differ among QR codes that have the same overall dimensions.
A QR code on its own is not a call to action. A simple directive such as "Scan Me!" near the code can incentivize consumers to reach for their phones.
For in-depth information on how to create QR codes applications that consumers want to scan, see how to create an effective call to action for smart products.
Apple v. Android
We’ve found in our testing that some custom QR codes that can be read by iOS devices cannot be read by some Android devices. Be sure to test the QR codes you create on both types of devices to ensure that all consumers will be able to successfully access your content.
With the release of iOS 14.4, Apple devices became able to read smaller QR codes. The company doesn’t specify the minimum size that can be read, but it shows a continued trend toward improved native compatibility. The improvement does not, however, allow iOS devices to read micro QR codes.