Are you ready to take your QR codes to the next level? Customizing QR codes is the new norm as brands and marketers fiercely compete for scans from tech-savvy consumers who never leave home without their smartphones. Marketers are quickly mastering platforms like URLgenius to not only control the destination of their QR codes but also to customize the look and feel of the code to align with the design and goals of their campaign. It can be a tricky task because the design elements of a QR code affect its ability to be scanned.
This post will teach you step-by-step how to take a QR code with a standard design and turn it into a scanning magnet that will catch the eye of your consumers and help you increase conversion. You can change just about every design element of a QR code, including the colors, logo, and even the shape of the elements within the code. Done right, you’ll wow your audience and inspire scans; done wrong, it could spell disaster with a QR code that doesn’t work!
First things first, if you’re creating QR codes to open apps, read this post about how to create QR codes for apps. Create one that will open the app when it’s installed or go to the right app store or a web URL if it’s not installed (you decide). These codes have special considerations. Keep in mind, your average QR code generator cannot make codes that open apps. But with URLgenius, you can make QR codes for apps or websites, and not only can you control the design, but you can also set the code to open specific screens in your app and even change the destination after the code is printed. Check out our QR Strategy Guide and QR Experience Playbook for best practice information.
Once you have your basic QR code created, you’ll be ready to explore the various design-related options explained in detail below.
In our example, we’re using a QR code that is set to open the Sephora app. If the app is installed, it will open to the home page. If the app is not installed, the QR code will take you to the right app store.
What you see above is a standard QR code design. Let’s use the URLgenius QR Code Studio to transform this QR design into a more enticing experience to get more scans and ultimately increase app installs, while also sending existing app users back into the app. We’ll go over each section of the QR Design Studio below and explain the different design-related options.
Also, keep in mind that you can use your brand’s domain for your QR code link. This particular post shows you how to make codes individually, but URLgenius also has an API in case you need to make codes programatically. Contact us for details.
To follow along and try each of the design features described, choose a QR code from your account. Click on ‘Console‘ from the menu, and then choose a link that brings you to the settings page. From the link settings page, click the tab titled ‘QR Design Studio’. This is where you can customize the design of your QR code and download it in different formats.
Pro Tip: If you don’t see all the features, that means you don’t have your credit card on file for your account. Once your card is on file, you’ll have access to all the features except design templates. Not to worry, you’re not charged anything until your account exceeds 500 clicks or scans. Contact us if you want to save your QR codes as design templates or if you have questions about pricing.
Let’s get started!
Color is a fun way to change the appearance of your QR code to align with your campaign and your brand. Be careful, though, because the wrong color combination will make the code unscannable. URLgenius gives you a color palette to customize the color. Or if your graphic has an exact hex color code, you can enter that in the fields provided.
Choose foreground and background color options that have a strong contrast. It’s also important to have a strong color contrast against the background colors present in your campaign. For example, QR codes with darker colors are easier to scan when they are next to QR codes with lighter colors, and vice versa. Contact us if you need guidance on color and placement.
The advanced options are just that—a lot more advanced than choosing colors out of the Crayola box. These options control the shape, look, and feel of the code (and can be used to impress your boss!). When you use these features, make sure to consider the use case and scanning distance. Always test your code in context, meaning how an actual customer would scan it. If you don’t, it may not work when you get the QR code into production!
For this example, instead of the purple color above, we decided to go with a pink background and a black foreground for two reasons: 1) This color combination presents a strong contrast, and 2) well, it reminded us of lipstick and makeup, and we thought it looked good with the Sephora brand! Fun, right?
Now let’s go over each advanced option.
Quiet Zone: Choosing to display a quiet zone is a quiet way to make a major difference in your code’s appearance—and we highly recommend it because it helps maximize scanning. It adds a border to the code, giving it a clean, framed effect. You can also choose how big you want this quiet zone/border/frame to be. This example uses a medium-sized quiet zone.
Soften Corners: If you select a quiet zone, you’ll also have the option to soften the corners of the QR code, and the effect uses the quiet zone area to do that. As the word suggests, this effect rounds out the sharp edges of your QR code. It’s easier on the eyes and presents a modern, thoughtful design.
Transparent Background: Having a transparent background for your QR code gives you flexibility in its usage and application on different types of surfaces. As the word implies, a transparent QR code will override any background color you may have chosen, as well as the quiet zone and the option to soften its corners. Important: JPG does not support transparent backgrounds—keep that in mind before finalizing your design and check with your graphic designer to see if PNG and SVG are acceptable.
Rounded Eye Frames: This is probably one of the more noticeable changes we made to the design of this code. It has the same softening effect on the edges of the three “eye frames” on the top and bottom left corners. This is another great way to differentiate your QR code from standard designs.
Circular Eye Frames: Similar to the previous option, but the eye frames will be fully round. This option can be particularly useful if you have a campaign design that uses circular shapes.
Circular Body Blocks: Look closer, and you can see the shape of the “body blocks,” which are the small squares (or circles in this case) that make up the interior of the code. This is a great option for consistency if you’ve chosen circular eye frames. Exciting, right?
Circle Shaped QR: Your first guess is correct—this is the option to transform your code from a basic parallelogram to a circle! How’s that for a different QR code design!? Important: For circular shaped QR codes, only the PNG format is available. JPG and SVG file formats do not support exporting circle-shaped QR codes
Dot Scale: This refers to the size (or thickness? Boldness, perhaps?) of the body blocks. As you can see, we opted for 90%, which we thought looked best. Check out different dot scale percentages and see which catches your eye!
Here are three very different QR code designs using the advanced options described above. Remember, this is the same QR code that opens the Sephora app or goes to the right app store. It performs the same function; only the design is different!
All of these options—combined with your color, logo, and density (not to mention the size and placement of your QR code!)— can affect scanning. Make sure you test your QR code in context every time. Better yet, get some advice from experts—that’s us!
Density is really important to get right with regard to your use case! We’re almost at the end of our post, but this is worth breaking down a bit—so stay with us! This QR code dentistry refers to the density of the body blocks within the code. Just remember: Lower-density QR codes scan more easily from long distances and at small display sizes, making them ideal for mediums like TV or print catalogs. Higher-density QR codes feature built-in data redundancy (repeating patterns that cameras can identify), making them ideal for close-range scanning on items like product packaging or when you need to set your logo to be larger in the center.
Here are three versions of the same QR code at different densities. Contact us and get guidance on whether your QR code density is correct for your use case.
As you can see from this example, it’s not always simple to understand density and design settings (they kinda look the same), but be aware that the display size of your logo will vary based on the density selected. Logos are not recommended for QR codes with low-density settings because it can interfere with the ability to scan the code. If you want to keep the logo in the center, choose a medium or high density. Speaking of logos, that’s our last section in this post!
Here’s the thing about logos: some brand logos look great within QR codes, others not so much. Some companies modify their logos for things like QR codes, so it really all depends. Just know that the size of the logo you select is also related to density. If you want a larger logo, you’re going to need a higher-density code.
Transparent Logo Background: This is straightforward—it’s the option to make your logo’s background transparent. Note that JPG does not support any transparent backgrounds—be it the QR code’s background or the logo’s.
Logo Size: We mentioned that logo size is automatically tied to the right density setting, and you’ll see the density change automatically. You do, however, have the option to override that. Do we recommend it? Probably not. Should you play around with it? Sure. Why not? Test things out—make sure you’re always testing out your QR code every step of the way.
Background Images: These can also be tricky to get right, and they can interfere with scanning and color contrast. You want to make sure that it’s an image light enough in color to contrast with the body blocks. Uploading a background image will override any background color you have previously selected.
First, we’ll say it one more time for all these settings: you absolutely must test your QR code in the context in which it will be scanned. Second, all the options are a bit overwhelming. That’s why our QR code experts are here to guide you every step of the way!
Whether you just need one QR code for your app or thousands of personalized QR codes, URLgenius is your dynamic QR code platform for apps and websites, and for use in any marketing channel.
Contact us at email@example.com with questions and tell us about your project requirements.
If you found this content helpful, check out some of our latest how-to posts for innovative QR code marketing ideas and best practices: