Dear print designers, if you want to use QR codes you need to think usability too

Dear Print Designer,


I noticed your poster today at Perry Barr station. It’s an attractive enough poster, and very much in keeping with London Midland’s house style. I noticed you’d used a QR code with the call to action “scan me”. Now I’m a very obedient guy, so I did, but it was tricky, what with the QR code being down below my waist. I can see why you did this: there’s space there in the poster template, and perhaps you don’t want to clutter your artwork with this new fangled digital feature.


You’re clearly not convinced by the need to use a QR code, are you? Otherwise you’d have not been so thoughtless about this positioning. You’d have considered the feature’s function, thought about the context in which I’d interact with it, and made it accessible. You’d have had the confidence to have made it part of the design, not dropped it in as an after thought.


Essentially by offering this QR code you are making your poster an extension of my smartphone’s browser – you’re designing for screen, designing for Internet. Web designers think about usability, and you need to too.


It’s nice to see you experiment, but let’s learn from experience and move things forward.


Yours faithfully,




p.s. check your brand manual. The branding consultants are probably pretty pissed that you’ve nicked all that negative space from the company logo.

Published by

Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research:

  • jon bounds

    and did it go anywhere you couldn’t have typed into the browser more quickly?

  • Jon Hickman

    It did go to the website. Weirdly it went to a first. Which seems all a bit much when they have such a nice vanity url on the poster.

  • Craig Willis

    First off, great to find your Blog Jon!Secondly, maybe midland tested their poster using Google Goggles, I was showing it to a colleague by taking a pic of a business card. Before I had the card in front of the camera goggles had spied a QR code in the distant background and was asking me if I wanted to go to!It didn’t recognise the business card anyway…

  • redgmma

    When I use QR I refer to too for 2 reasons. 1 analytics, the link allows me to see who got to the page from which print ad. 2. Less data means higher fidelity for the QR, which means easier, quicker and more reliable scanning.Also, if the link was different for each station the advert was printed at then you would be able to guage QR awareness by area, or even tailor the page slightly for the area it was scanned in.All that said they probably didn’t as the QR it’s exactly prominent.