"QUANTUM SHOT" #398(rev)
Link - article by Avi Abrams

Cut out your UPC label and... frame it!

Barcodes, or UPC symbols, these ubiquitous emblems of our consumer civilization, have been receiving a radical makeover by the Japanese firm D-Barcode, which puts them on all sorts of products all over Japan.

Sometimes called the "vanity barcodes", these simple, yet brilliant designs have recently spread around the world, spawning the full blown "Barcode Revolution" in creative packaging design:

(images via 1, 2, 3)

When you first pick a Japanese-made bottle of pop or a milk jug from the shelf, you might not even notice anything different about the codes (with all the intensity and typical visual clutter of a great Japanese package design). Once you take a closer look, however, these charmingly designed UPC masterpieces will be impossible to ignore! The whimsical little codes will make you smile, and maybe even cause you to buy other products with such codes, just to start your collection!

Trust Japanese to "glorify" every single mundane design detail, to joyously enhance consumer experience - by adding something extra, a little thing, so easy to miss at first glance. But now, we suspect that (thanks to these creative bar codes) the package design in Japan has truly become perfect.

Other barcode art pops up from time to time around the world: this is "Flowers", by Dave Herbert:

(image via)

Russian Surreal Barcode Posters

Art Lebedev design studio has been issuing wildly creative posters (featuring barcode symbols) for years. As you can see, they have no shortage of ideas:

(images credit: Art Lebedev)

Creative Barcode Ideas Permeate Modern Design

Just try to have an exhibition of modern furniture without some examples popping up... like this one (left image): "The Bar Code Chandelier", by Mobilet design studio... or the one on the right: "Muscat City Centre", by Barcode Designed Lights:

(images via)

More glowing barcode light fixtures, by the Hampstead Lighting:

Check out this LEGO barcode scanner! It includes an actual miniature laser, no less - so handle it with care:

(image via)

How about a full-size barcode building? -

(image via)

Portraits, made entirely from the UPC codes and barcodes? Sure, check out the gallery of Scott Blake. He's got Monroe, Elvis and, of course, Jesus - which is, in itself, a succint comment on rampant consumerism and prevalence of kitsch in our times.

(image credit: Scott Blake)

The "MAD" magazine ran a few imaginative barcode cover illustrations back in 1979:

(image via)

Want to know the time? Click on this Barcode Clock:

(image via)

And finally, as it's almost a custom nowadays to finish with a cute or LOL-lified cat picture (no matter the actual subject of an article), here are the "Barcode Kitties!" - a neat "Hello Kitty" spin-off for those in need of a dose of a truly geeky cuteness:

Today we find that UPS labels, QR codes and barcode symbols are deeply ingrained in the very fabric of our society. A fearless explorer of various "paranoid realities", the classic science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, for example, would've smelled a juicy conspiracy in all this. But we, innocent consumers, give it no mind; we just keep on shopping and cheerfully buying everything that scans.

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.



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Blogger Tanya Brown said...

Cool post.

Re: the custom barcodes on products, the late Rick Tharp, a graphic designer here in the U.S., was also known for that. It caused a bit of a stir at the time. I want to say that he did it first, during the late eighties, but in the absence of solid research, I shouldn't. Who knows ... perhaps he got the idea from the Japanese.

Hmph. Maybe I shouldn't write rambling comments on others' blogs when I've just woken up.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the early days of bar codes on periodicals, Mad Magazine used to do some quite imaginative things to the bar codes on the front cover. Look at the CollectMad web site collection of covers, starting around the last half of 1979.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the album 'Seed to Sun' by Boom Bip. It is on the Warp/Lex label and has a very beautifully illustrated and combined inner and outer sleeve which when inserted correctly reveals the bar-code through a cutout window.

Blogger Jogma said...

Two of my favourite things! Barcodes and Japanese stuff.

Amazing blog :)

Blogger archyslave said...

I remember seeing one of these on a bottle of Axe in Osaka. I bought one to bring back, but I think it was confiscated by the TSA :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The EE/CS building at the University of Minnesota: Twin Cities has a barcode on the sidewalk containing the date the building was erected.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eye-opening post, really like the examples you put together, especially the clock.

Barcodes carry a lot of information, but one neat thing about them is the permutations of the word:

abc redo
coed bar
rode cab
bra code
drab ceo
bad core
race bod
bod care


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cans of Tecate beer have an eagle-shaped UPC code.

Blogger Unknown said...

i love the one that says "free range human" in the flower pedals

Anonymous Anonymous said...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, those are some interesting designs.

Congrats on being featured on BoingBoing!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool barcode from Slovenia:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

LA based artist Guillermo Bert has a great series of Bar Code pieces.


Blogger Lady Guady said...

My favourite is the barcode building!!

Blogger yaqui said...

The japanese barcodes were awarded the highest distinction the most coveted Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival gives out to the most breakthrough, groundbreaking, media changing idea.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm very impressed with all of the barcodes. I never thought that an artistic bent could be put on them.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are sooo amazing. I am determined to do something nifty like this on my next book - but do they really work?

Blogger The A of DNA said...

My company had made a business card with a bar code --- the numbers under the bar code was our contact phone number.. it looked pretty spiffy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one I like most is that of the bloke lifting the barcode as if it was a heavy box

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The links to Mad Covers have changed to:

Blogger Angie said...

It's amazing how creative people can be...even with barcodes!
I especially Love the Beatles one!

Anonymous Testking 640-802 said...

thats really very nice and fantastic blog thanks for sharing this useful and terrific talent with us,....

Blogger Two Ways said...

This was a fantastic idea! Very nice!!!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I scanned all these on my phone and nothing came up??


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