Digital Storytelling: QR Codes Explained

One would not have to look far to identify one of these funky looking square bar codes. In the past two years, these QR Codes have started popping everywhere from newspapers and magazines, to real estate signage and billboards. What is a QR Code, and how can you use it to help tell the story of your community?

A QR, or Quick Response, Code, is a two-dimensional code,first designed to track vehicles during manufacturing and allow users to decode contents at a high speed. The widespread use of smart phones and the availability of free QR decoder apps sparked the pervasive use of QR Codes for consumer advertising. By simply opening an app on your smart phone and clicking the scan button, the app links the user to a website URL, YouTube video, GoogleMaps Location, social media websites, a plain text message or an individual or organization’s contact.

The applications for this technology is only as limited as your imagination. Perhaps a historical marker or a location in the landscape offers perspective on a particular topic and requires greater interpretation, or your museum exhibit has outgrown your physical space? Many of these issues can be addressed by making use of the unlimited capacity of the World Wide Web.

An even more appealing feature, QR Codes are free to generate. One needs only to enter a quick Google search for a “free QR Generator,” and a number of options will be at your fingertips. Not all QR Generators are the same. offers many options for creating QR Codes, including available merchandise. Meanwhile, allows users to shorten a URL and generate QR Codes without the added features, but has the benefit of having a hit counter. For many non-profits, this hit counter will be very important for assessing impact and your return on investment (ROI).

QR Codes could be a high-impact, low-cost and highly measurable way to better tell the story of your community or broaden your museum experience beyond your four walls. With error correction technology, QR Codes can be damaged or even incorporate artistic features and still scan correctly. Now that you know what they are, how do you think you can utilize QR Codes to tell your story?

Wikipedia artwork QR by QRC-DESIGNER

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