Innovation That Matters

Repackaging barcodes

Fashion & Beauty

Japanese Design Barcode turns standard barcodes into appealing and engaging brand elements. Following laundry services, supermarkets and coffins in our recurring ‘everything can be reinvented’ theme, come the humble stripes and digits that shape the ubiquitous barcode, as reinvented by Design Barcode. Fifteen companies are currently using the agency’s novel barcodes as part of their packaging design. (A video showing examples can be viewed here.) The designs are clever and whimsical, from bars being picked up by chopsticks for a ramen noodles package, to a zebra carrying the black and white stripes on its back. Some designs were commissioned by clients, while others are part of the agency’s initial range of 200 designs created to display the format’s potential. Exclusive rights to the latter can be bought for USD 4,000 plus a USD 400 annual license fee. The agency prides itself on zero instances of false reading by barcode readers (machine readability is key), and all barcodes are put through a battery of tests before being released for production. Although Design Barcode has been reworking barcodes since 2004, the idea hadn’t yet caught on outside Japan. That’s likely to change after the four-man agency won major industry recognition in Cannes last week, in the shape of a Titanium Lion award. Everything that is packaged reaches customers’ hands with a barcode attached. Turning that mandatory element into something unexpected and playful is certain to make many customers smile. Surely that’s worth USD 4,000 to most brands. 😉 Design Barcodes is working with Pacarc to bring the concept to the United States, but other markets still seem wide open. One for regional (boutique) design firms and advertising agencies? In the United States: P.S. If you’re interested in functional innovations in product codes, you might want to check out’s infolust, which explores new versions of two-dimensional codes (among other things).



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