June 15, 2023

AI Generated Art and the future of QR Code Design

Elektra Pritchard

QR codes are almost 30 years old, but their black and white pixelated appearance has stayed the same. Generative A has the potential to change that.

A developer experimenting with ControlNet, released code that will allow anyone to fuse art with functional QR codes. And in the not so distant future, brands will be able to make QR Code Experiences that not only share story and product details, but are also enjoyable to look at. 

TL; DR AI art QR codes don’t work that well right now for brand marketers, but Brij built an arguably better alternative that gives brand marketers complete control of the QR code design. You can turn any logo, design, or image into a scannable QR code. Try it here!

A brief primer on QR Code Design

QR codes have been around since 1994. Yet, their appearance hasn’t changed at all.  Frankly, QR codes are ugly and jarring.  As a result, they are sized down and placed in the corner of an advertisement or the back of a package. Out of sight is out of mind. Consequently, its common for brands experience low engagement with QR codes. 

To date, brands have a limited toolset to improve the look and feel. They can:

  • Add a logos to the center
  • Swap black & white for a brand color palette.
  • Change dot & corner style from square to round

But the result is still is not that different from the original concept. 

Then along came Generative AI.

In the last year, use of AI has boomed. Most of the conversation is focused on large language models (LLM) like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. However, AI is also spreading to design with text-to-image modeling. The most popular generative AI design models are 

  • DALL-E
  • Midjourney
  • Stable Diffusion. 

Last week, an artistic twist on QR Codes was introduced via Reddit when two developers in China mixed QR Codes with ControlNet AI. ControllNet is a text-to-image AI model based on StableDiffusion. It lets you copy from reference images. Which allowed the developers to fuse together artistic imagery with functioning QR codes. The result was scannable QR Codes that looked like works of art. 

Here are some of the images that were created:

ai generated qr code examples

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Artistic QR Codes likely to drive more engagement

The beautification of QR codes is a huge marketing opportunity. Marketers will be able to use highly stylized QR codes as a tool to express brand essence and connect with customers on a deeper level. 

With text-to-image AI, brands can confidently put QR codes front and center. They will be able to seamlessly weave QR codes into packaging and physical ad mediums like Out of Home billboards and direct mail. And it will open up a new work where packaging and ads can be scanned to unlock digital experiences. 

In general brands will be more willing to use QR codes and use them with higher frequency. It will create all sorts of new marketing opportunities. All of which will drive more engagement, foster customer loyalty, and grow customer lifetime value.

The use of QR Codes is growing rapidly and is projected to reach over 100 million Americans by 2025. And with generative AI, that growth could accelerate. It is an exciting breakthrough for brands.  

Cautiously Optimistic

Naturally, here at Brij, we are very excited about the potential. So, in hopes to add this functionality to Brij, we started tinkering! Our engineers have been experimenting and here are some of the QR codes we came up with. 

Here are two harsh truths learned.

  1. It’s very difficult prompt with text-to-image AI. For instance, we’ve been trying every day to make a Brij themed art QR code. And still haven’t found something we like.
  2. It’s hard to get a functioning QR code. We’ve made a bunch of cool looking pieces of art that look like a QR code but don’t scan. 

And even the ones that do scan, don't scan for everyone, and take a lot long to be recognized by mobile cameras. 

It takes a ton of trial and error or just dumb luck to get something that is representative of whatever you are trying to design and easy to scan. We found that the AI art codes were easier to scan from further away. 

So it’s likely the best application of current technology (assuming you get an output you like), is a large billboard, an advertising play reserved for big brands. 

All that being said, we it’s very early for generative text-to-image AI. We are cautiously optimistic that the technology will improve over time and be commercially viable.

With Brij, you can create Beautiful QR Codes now!

While AI art QR codes won't work for the vast majority of brands. Brij has an immediate solution for you that can create beautiful fully branded QR codes that are even better than AI QR codes. We call it the Designer QR Code Generator.

With Brij’s Designer QR Code Generator, brands can now turn the following into a QR code:

  • Logos
  • Mascots
  • Product images
  • Photographs
  • Brand design
  • AI-generated images (StableDiffusion, Dall-E, and MidJourney)

Brij’s Designer QR code Generator can turn any image file into a scannable QR code, in seconds.

Try the Design QR Code Generator here.

And if you are interested in talking QR code experience strategy or want to see how you can level up your QR Code Experience with the BRIJ platform book some time with us here.

Want to learn more about Brij?