In the past few years - er year?? - we've seen the rise of the almighty QR code. It's a discussion the Marketing Director at CURE and I have regularly. Or semi-regularly anyway.

He always wants to use them - bless his heart - and I always resist. So it's really not that big of an issue, but it's come up once or twice, and it's enough that it really made me want to examine and articulate why I resist the technological fad innovation known as the QR Code.

To those of you who may not know what a QR code is (or have been living in a community that resists all forms of technology - whichever applies to you), here's the short explanation via wikipedia:

A QR code (abbreviation for Quick Response code) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera telephones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, URL, or other data.

Or in layman's terms: it's like a barcode that the average smartphone can read, and usually points you to content on the web.

Here's the million dollar question: Are QR Codes effective for marketing??

Nobody seems to really know!! Sure, they are everywhere - but what question does that actually prove? That people are really using them, or that marketers are really using them?

My nemesis colleague Matt would argue that if they're everywhere, then we should be using them so people perceive our organization as progressive (*Pfsh - whatever THAT means!*) *SEE NOTE AT BOTTOM

But I would argue that in the lack of any real objective evidence I have yet to see for the effectiveness for QR Codes, I have to conclude that their presence everywhere merely indicates the enthusiasm with which marketing professionals everywhere have jumped on board with using QR Codes. Not the general public, or any particular audience.

Granted, for the audience of those who rapidly embrace new technology, this whole argument is mute. If I were marketing to the tech crowd exclusively, I would surely not resist the wonder of the QR Code.

And a philosophical issue...

But actually I have a deeper, philosophical reason for resisting QR Codes. One that is also rooted in design I admit. It's the issue of what a QR Code represents: The QR code represents a message that is not human readable. It can only be deciphered by machine.

And therein lies my true philosophical resistance to the QR technology. Not that I'm opposed to using things that require technological assistance - but that from a design standpoint my goal & my responsibility have always been to communicate the message as clearly as possible to the viewer or user.

But with QR technology, we are surpassing the lowest common denominator of access to information via common language in favor of a roadblock of technology that requires a very specific tool to access it.

All in the name of convenience? I'm just not sold.

Are QR codes very convenient? Yes. Are there points where with a QR code you can give someone access to information which simple text, or a URL (for sake of URL length?) may not? Most likely - but may be a stretch. (That's what friendly URLs are for...)

But in the end you are very much excluding anyone without access to the QR code reader technology from getting to the content masked behind that digital wonder box.

And that's why I resist.

*NOTE: My references to my esteemed colleague at CURE, Matt, are completely in good fun. Matt is a really bright guy and has an excellent handle on marketing trends. In fact, although once and a while we butt heads, he and I get on very well together working on projects. So to clear up any vagueness sponsored by faceless interweb content, I'm not passive aggressively venting any frustrations whatsoever in Matt's direction. Just using him for illustration of the point.