Can I Include Logos in my QR Codes?

First Published: June 14, 2023
Channel: Design | Technology

You’ve probably noticed that some brands love to include their logo in QR Codes on their packaging.

If you’ve ever scanned any of these codes, they probably scanned just fine.

But does this make it a good idea? No, it’s actually a very bad idea – especially if it’s critical that your QR Code scans every time.

Adding a logo to a QR Code works because the encoding of the data includes some redundancy – generally referred to as the QR Code’s error correction.

QR Code error correction is a fundamental feature that allows QR Codes to maintain their integrity and functionality, even when part of the code is damaged, obscured, or distorted. This feature becomes particularly important when adding logos to QR Codes since the logo uses up some of the built-in error correction.

QR Code Error Correction

QR Codes have four levels of error correction: L (Low), M (Medium), Q (Quartile), and H (High). These levels denote the amount of the QR Code that can be damaged or obscured while still maintaining its functionality:

  1. Level L: This level offers up to 7% error correction capability. It has the lowest error correction level and is useful when the code has minimal risk of being damaged, for instance, when displayed digitally on a phone – this isn’t usually a good choice for QR Codes printed on packaging.
  2. Level M: This level provides up to 15% error correction capability. It’s a middle-ground level, suitable for situations where there might be some risk of damage, but it would be expected to be minimal.
  3. Level Q: This level offers up to 25% error correction capability. It’s a higher error correction level, suitable for situations where the QR Code might face a higher risk of damage.
  4. Level H: This is the highest error correction level, with up to 30% error correction capability. It’s ideal for situations where the QR Code is at an increased risk of damage, such as outdoor displays or when printed on physical products that might face wear and tear.

It’s important to note that the higher the error correction level, the larger the barcode will become – this might be an issue when there is limited space available for printing the QR Code.

This error correction capability makes QR Codes versatile and resilient, maintaining their functionality even when somewhat damaged. When creating a QR Code, the appropriate error correction level should be chosen based on the intended use, the size requirement of the symbol and the risk of the code being damaged or obscured.

GS1 Sunrise 2027 and 2D Barcodes

This will become particularly important for companies that want to take advantage of the GS1 Digital Link standard when 2D barcodes become the norm for retail barcoding in 2027.

Even though a QR Code with a printed logo will scan reasonably well, since these barcodes will now be used at the point of sale, any scan errors will cause problems for the retailer and your relationship with them.

Using some of the error correction capabilities to add a logo will reduce the barcode’s verification score (which can be a reason for chargebacks) and increase the chance of scan failure at the most critical moment.

For this reason, GS1 strongly suggests not printing logos in QR Codes used in their system, and it makes sense to keep the logos away.

Further reading:

GS1 Sunrise 2027 2D Barcode Migration

2D Barcode Error Correction

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