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Not Your Ordinary Barcode
August 15, 2007 4:31 AM   Subscribe

Bar Code Revolution! With more than just lines and rectangles, Japanese company Design Barcode works around the basic elements of a barcode and infuses real, functional barcodes with creative designs and silhouettes. See barcodes as tomatoes, stomachs, rain, pianos, guns, train tracks, waterfalls, cliffsides, and yes, even combovers.
posted by Lush (46 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looks like a grocery checker's nightmare.
posted by basicchannel at 4:36 AM on August 15, 2007


I love Scott Blake's work.
posted by Poolio at 4:36 AM on August 15, 2007


Really cool. But no way is that a "suction cup dart" coming out of that gun.
posted by DU at 4:37 AM on August 15, 2007


from Scott Bake's bio: My dream Jeopardy categories would be:

1. Skateboarding
2. Photoshop
3. Beans and Rice
4. Homemade Pyrotechnics
5. Entheogens
6. The Simpsons
7. Gameboy Tetris

posted by Poolio at 4:38 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of Mad magazine's making little jokes with the UPC code on their cover as a way of protesting being forced to use it.
posted by TedW at 4:45 AM on August 15, 2007 [4 favorites]


I wonder what design we'll get to choose for the barcode tattoos they put on the back of our necks?
posted by Pollomacho at 4:56 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


While these are cool, I can't believe no-one has thought of doing this before.

And since we've all seen this, lots of people are thinking of doing this now.

So what's to stop me making a package with a barcode that has some tomato leaves stuck on top of it, or sticking a barcode on the back of a picture of a zebra, and avoiding their $1500 +$200 pa royalties?

The IP implications of this, as with most things, are beyond me. But unless they've got a patent on "making barcodes not-square" I really don't see how they're going to get rich off this...
posted by Jimbob at 5:04 AM on August 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


Only $1500 to buy the rights to the flower gun?

Where's the line form?
posted by Sukiari at 5:08 AM on August 15, 2007


The Design Barcode link is just chock full of quirky and clever little ideas. Very charming! Those who can't read the Japanese should go ahead and click on the links there: the pop-up windows step through visual representations that mostly require no exact understanding of Japanese. Creative folks!

Otherwise, I'm reminded of a hilarious joke:

Horse walks into a barcode.
Bartendercode says:
Why the long facecode?

Ha ha hacode!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:09 AM on August 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


So what's to stop me making a package with a barcode that has some tomato leaves stuck on top of it, or sticking a barcode on the back of a picture of a zebra, and avoiding their $1500 +$200 pa royalties?

Their technical info page says their idea has "patent pending" status, presumably in the US. There's nothing to stop you, but those royalty amounts would be cheap, relative to the cost of defending a patent infringement lawsuit, for manufacturers interested in using one of their designs.
posted by beagle at 5:23 AM on August 15, 2007


The Sumo wrestler one is a gem. I love these. Talk about collectible madness ensuing....
posted by bloomicy at 5:33 AM on August 15, 2007


I work in a company that prints barcode labels, so I'm getting a kick out of these replies... sorry, I thought I was on Fark for a moment there...

Anyway, I can vouch that most of Scott's designs should scan, if printed properly -- the bar widths and contrast still need to be within spec, which is why you have special barcode printing software and black bars on white backgrounds -- barcodes printed in coloured ink on cardboard boxes, for instance, are harder to scan. Even so, laser and CCD scanners have improved a lot in the past five years, so codes outside of the standard design parameters (or even damaged) can be read now.

The trick is to make sure that there is enough of a vertical width so the laser or CCD can cut horizontally across all the bars -- a barcode printed on a slant, like a parallelogram, will not scan because all of the bars can not be read simultaneously. Some of Blake's designs are close to this limit (like the Dracula and Waterfall barcodes), but with enough passes they should still be read.

Side note: I used to know a punk who wanted to get a barcode tattoo. He asked me to get him a printout of his name so he could get a tattoo artist to put it on his arm ("They could scan me at the supermarket!" he said with a big grin.) The problem was that UPC codes, which are the codes you see on products on store shelves, are numeric only. Being the gracious sort, I had to design the code using Code 39 and Code 128, which are common enough in warehousing and inventory applications, but would not be read by the sort of scanners you see in stores. I often wonder if he went through with the tattoo, and whether he tried to scan himself like he was all hyped up to do. In any case, if the artist messed up the bar widths, then the tattoo would have been unreadable anyway.

So anyone who's worried about having the mark of the beast tattooed on their necks: it probably won't be a barcode. That said, an RFID chip can be easily implanted in the skin (and has successfully been done in certain applications) and can contain a lot more information than a simple barcode. If the technology ever gets beyond a read range of two or three feet, then that will be the time to worry.
posted by spoobnooble at 6:07 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


if only they could use this to barcode grocery products like portabello mushrooms, then this wonderful initiative could counter the decline in the education of the youth of amerika.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:14 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just to follow up on beagle's comment, the other consideration is that it would most likely cost a manufacturer or distributor as much or more to "roll their own" anyway. If they see something they like on this site, that's a hefty shortcut versus the cost in time and outside agency expenses to develop their own (especially given the inscrutable, "magic" nature of barcodes --- and the high cost of screwing them up).

Add in the whiff of potential patent jeopardy, and all that's stopping this from hitting the big-time is that at the end of the day it's still just a cute gimmick that most consumers won't even notice or care about.
posted by kowalski at 6:16 AM on August 15, 2007


Why $1500? What's hard about just rolling yor own?
posted by jeffburdges at 6:16 AM on August 15, 2007


Their technical info page says their idea has "patent pending" status

You can't patent an idea per se. Perhaps they can patent their method for producing and testing such barcodes, but if you could use a different method you'd be home free.

Besides there is prior art (no pun intended) on the idea. I remember seeing some similar designs from Tharp Did It (sadly none on that site that I can see) about 9-10 years ago in a design sourcebook. They were so memorable that I even remember the name of the design firm.
posted by grouse at 6:17 AM on August 15, 2007


Next we'll be getting barcode tattoos on our faces, a la Jennifer Government.
posted by brina at 6:18 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


My phone in Japan had some sort of bar-code function on it, but I could never get it to work. Anybody know what that thing might be for?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:19 AM on August 15, 2007


My phone in Japan had some sort of bar-code function on it, but I could never get it to work.

Japanese cellphones all read QR codes these days, and you see the codes everywhere ... newspaper ads, magazines, etc. etc. Just point your phone at the code in the ad, and click to dial (or surf the site, as the case may be ...).
posted by woodblock100 at 6:33 AM on August 15, 2007


I used to know a punk who wanted to get a barcode tattoo.

I had a student with a barcode tattoo on his neck. He'd always say that, if scanned, it would ring up a copy of Camus's The Rebel. I'm still not sure whether he understood the irony there.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:44 AM on August 15, 2007


Why $1500? What's hard about just rolling yor own?

You can roll your own, no problem. But any serious consumer manufacturer or distributor is likely to enlist a professional design agency, unless they have an art department that's already doing all parts of their package design, including preparing barcodes. For them, $1500 isn't bad for a non-exclusive ready-made.

Keep in mind also that, given the above, Design Barcode's site is probably as much or more about attracting clients for custom jobs as it is about selling the clipart.
posted by kowalski at 6:48 AM on August 15, 2007


You can't patent an idea per se

No, that's just what the law says. The USPTO routinely approves patents on nothing more than ideas regardless. :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 7:07 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


a barcode printed on a slant, like a parallelogram, will not scan because all of the bars can not be read simultaneously.

I suspect it would scan ok - the reader just needs a straight line that crosses all the lines (reads all the bars simultaneously), it has no reference as to whether that straight line is horizontal relative to the page, or on some crazy angle. Scanning at an angle changes the line widths, but since it does so uniformly, so the proportions should scale perfectly, and providing you have a few inches give or take in range, the difference should just appear as the barcode being an inch or so further away.

A barcode skewed up and then like into a chevron-shaped like /\ on the other hand... :)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:14 AM on August 15, 2007


should just appear as the barcode being an inch or so further away closer.

FTFM

posted by -harlequin- at 7:20 AM on August 15, 2007


1D barcodes...meh.
I want to see something in a scannable 2D barcode.
posted by MtDewd at 8:17 AM on August 15, 2007


MtDewd: Check the bottom of the QR Codes link in this post.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:34 AM on August 15, 2007


Why is the zebra wearing socks? On very human-shaped feet?
posted by bassjump at 8:59 AM on August 15, 2007


Pretty cool - I get tired of the same old barcodes!!

wait - no I dont.
posted by 2shay at 9:04 AM on August 15, 2007


By the way, there's a joke here that I think most of you missed. In Japanese, the term for a comb-over is barcode. That's why that one is the best.
posted by donkeymon at 9:09 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


And they're still the right size and shape for some dipshit stocker to put the price sticker right across them so they won't scan.
posted by goatdog at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2007


I want to see something in a scannable 2D barcode.
posted by MtDewd at 10:17 AM on August 15


2D barcodes were being developed for retail applications, but nothing has come of it. The big selling point in grocery, for instance, was individually labelled produce items that would negate errors with scales at the point of sale.

The 2D barcode could contain additional information besides PLU and weight as well. There was enough room there for things like country of origin, harvest date, shipping date, whatever you like.

However scanning each apple in a bag of apples would take too long, printing on the produce was an issue, all the scanners at the point of sale would have to be replaced, and so on. It was a big headache with little pay-off, and as far as I know, no one really went anywhere with it on the retail side of things.

2D barcodes are being used fairly frequently in warehouse and shipping applications though.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:36 AM on August 15, 2007


So, who wants to break it to them that pipes is going to smell like hell? The gas and odours from the drains are going to come straight up and into the sink...
posted by twine42 at 9:42 AM on August 15, 2007


spoobnooble: Are bar codes dependent on proportional widths of bars and spaces or absolute widths? Assuming a teen got a precise bar code tattoo on their neck that worked at the time of the operation, would it still work say 10 years later after they had grown up?
posted by junesix at 9:45 AM on August 15, 2007


This is just in time to replaced by RFID tags.
posted by Muddler at 9:57 AM on August 15, 2007


I've wanted to get a barcode tattoo for years, but I've been told in no uncertain terms that it won't be scannable, because the ink will bleed just enough to render it non-functional.

Pity.
posted by quin at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2007


Why is the zebra wearing socks? On very human-shaped feet?

obviously, its feet are cold.
posted by dismas at 10:25 AM on August 15, 2007


These are stupid and done amateurishly. Sorry.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:27 AM on August 15, 2007


Cool, Tim- thanks.

WinnipegDragon- 2D's are being used in the medical fields.
I am testing 2D barcodes for Clinical Trials, and the last time I went to the hospital my wristband had 2D's on it.
posted by MtDewd at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2007


Plus what Optimus Chyme said.
posted by MtDewd at 10:59 AM on August 15, 2007


I used to know a punk who wanted to get a barcode tattoo.

Was he a hitman? From Wikipedia, on Agent 47's legendary tattoo:
The tattoo on the back of the protagonist's head 640509-040147 is actually registered as a product of May Audio Marketing Inc. It is unknown if there is actually any connection between the company and the game, but the product's description is listed as Mr.47.
posted by misha at 11:13 AM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


2D barcodes are also gaining traction in the USPS.
posted by inigo2 at 11:27 AM on August 15, 2007


When we finally get our mandatory government barcodes, I'm pretty sure many will opt for a Tramp Stamp.
posted by tehloki at 2:47 PM on August 15, 2007


tehloki - that suggests a whole new meaning for 'scanning'.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:10 PM on August 15, 2007


I like the way many Trader Joe's products have the barcode extend all the way from one end of the package to the other.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:15 PM on August 15, 2007


spoobnooble: Are bar codes dependent on proportional widths of bars and spaces or absolute widths?

Most barcodes are calculated and printed using a specific ratio of widths. Some scanners are better than others at compensating for a difference of, say, 1:2 or 1:3, for barcodes like code 39 that have two bar widths. But the ratios have to be constant: every wide bar has to be the same exact width, and every narrow bar also has to be the same width. A variation of even a few thousandths of an inch can throw off a scanner decode, and this combined with the smearing of tattoo ink over time (as mentioned above) makes getting a tattooed barcode a very dodgy prospect.
posted by spoobnooble at 8:43 PM on August 15, 2007


Was he a hitman?

I don't think so, though he was ex-military. I'm pretty sure he was just troubled.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:12 AM on August 17, 2007


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