Should Barcodes Be Penguin-Shaped? (We Think The Answer Is Clear)

Feb 05, 2014 | Updated Feb 05, 2014

Maybe they didn't stand out so much when their primary purpose was to line the shelves of supermarkets, but with the advent of smartphones, barcodes and QR codes became much more integrated with visual media and our world as a whole.

Trouble is, they're not particularly appealing to look at. The solution? Penguin-shaped barcodes, clearly.

For barcodes to work, according to the University of Nottingham's Professor Steve Benford in the video above, all they require is "a certain number of regions that contain a certain number of blobs within them, and if I get that number right, then the shape of them doesn't actually matter."

Once those requirements are met, the design possibilities for these codes are endless. If some of them just happen to take the shape of a certain flightless bird, we'll call it a success.

Although the issue of barcode aesthetics might seem rather small and industry-specific, the developers' discussion at its heart is both fascinating and ongoing: should we adapt the environment to meet the needs of computers? Or should computers themselves adapt?

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