How to use QR codes for the holidays (and other celebrations)

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December 20, 2012
How to use QR codes for the holidays (and other celebrations).

ThumbThe wonders of the QR code have been proved over and over for marketing and customer engagement. You see them all over, read about them in countless articles and have probably used them for a client's project, but what about the fun side? Have you used them for your own amusement or to spread joy among friends and family?

Creatives have traditionally been the leaders in evolving ideas throughout history and now we are no longer declared witches and heretics we don't have to worry about being burned at the stake.

The lowly parchment carried by hand begot stamped mail delivery, which begot the telegraph, begetting the fax, begetering email and now begeteringer texting. Something else will come along shortly, if you don't count Skype. It was only a matter of time that the QR code, originally designed to track car parts for Toyota, would evolve with the help of creative thought.

Sure, the little QR code is the key to linking information and engagement. It takes you to polls, special messages, discounts, videos, SMS and anything else that can be linked, so why not use them to entertain and annoy loved ones? This isn't to say the black and white squares that form the code are the way to go when using them for special occasions. Designing QR codes to jazz them up has been an evolution in design and it has gone from the code-loving eggheads who discovered the correction rate would allow the insertion of images and logos to entrepreneurial eggheads who created sites that will generate a designed QR code with your art or designs in just a few clicks.

One of the newcomers to QR code generation gave designers a tool for quick, efficient melding of code and design and have recently created some cool uses for Christmas. allowed those who use their free generator to create some cards, packaging and other holiday material with seasonal designs and the usage of QR technology.

Think about how these can be translated to personal use for the holiday…

When I was a kid, many people would send a Christmas "newsletter," outlining what their family had been up to for the year. While some people thought it a bit "corny," it was a great way to catch up before the days of email and Facebook (even before MySpace). Little Debbie went to her first prom, Pop-pop passed away, Billy got his driver's license and went to prison on the very same day, etc. Say what you will, it was heartwarming and confirmed everyone's belief that Billy was no good. Evolve that with a picture of the family, embedded with a QR code linked to a video of Billy's trial, Pop-pop's funeral and Debbie being six-months pregnant!

Not a story of the family but you get the idea of a video holiday card through a QR link.

Don't buy expensive cards for each and every package you have to wrap. Create a QR code with your picture on it and link it to a video of you personally wishing the person a happy holiday and talk about why you chose that gift for them. You could even have fun linking to a video clip of a movie. Let the Three Stooges do your well-wishing for you or have Ralphie warn your nephew about the dangers of having received a Red Ryder 200 shot range model BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing for telling time. Let Ralphie's eye get shot out! Allow Kenneth Branagh use a sexy English accent to voice Henry the Fifth's speech to his troops when you lift a glass on St. Crispin's day or just to confuse the hell out of people.

Imagine the fun of a holiday card that does this for your friends and family... without the résumé, of course!

Giving a big gift like a car, vacation, concert tickets, elephant (it could happen!) or something that can't be wrapped and placed in the living room? Place a QR code on a piece of paper and wrap that. Link it to a video or photo of the actual present and watch the recipient freak because they thought it was going to be some cheap gift card. Even better, put a QR code on a tiny piece of paper and place that in a small wrapped box, place that in a bigger wrapped box and so on for five or six boxes for fun and annoyance. If you really want to bust someone's chops, print out a QR code and cut it into a dozen or so pieces and place them into a wrapped box so the recipient has to solve a jigsaw puzzle before scanning the code to see their gift.

Make finding a gift an aggravating scavenger hunt! Place QR codes in different locations with each one linked to a map or SMS text with directions to the next code until the recipient hates your guts or finds his/her gift and loves you after forgiving you for something so maddening.

Start a tradition of making a tree ornament for each family member every year with a QR code linked to a photo or video and hang them on the Christmas tree every year. In future years, think of the joy and laughter the whole family will get at looking at this digital Christmas album. You can even send these QR ornaments to grandma as she might not like those new fangled computing devil machines but she has a phone and can scan a QR code… even if she can't figure out voicemail. Sigh!

Skip the glue and varnish. Use your computer... it's less sticky and you can mass produce!

Buy someone a premium Spotify app for their phone and they can scan the QR and instantly start the playlist. Music in the playlists spans nearly every interest and occasion including, of course, holiday music!

Make an actual book with a picture and QR code on each page so people can scan each code and hear a story on a video you've made.

A Hollywood-quality production for this QR linked video. It did better in the theaters than "John Carter of Mars"!

Just for art lovers who receive your QR greeting card, Sukiennice Museum, in Poland, has added a whole new dimension to their paintings to turn each one into a series of stories about insanity, intrigue, deception, war and much more. Sukiennice Museum brought actors to tell the “Secrets Behind the Paintings”. Visitors scan the QR code for a particular painting, and get the inside scoop direct from the “painter” themselves. Surely the codes can be found on the internet as well.

Having a holiday party? Why not make it easier on guests by sending a QR code linked to a map of the party location? Include photos, links to the menu and any other information that will be helpful.

There are a thousand and one creative ideas for both QR code usage as well as things one can do to make the holidays more joyful and digitally annoying to our family, elders and loved ones. Honestly, mixing the latest technological advances with the ancient and sacred celebrations we have practiced for so long is what the holidays are all about.

So, if you've already planned out your gift giving and cards for this year, you really don't have much time to plan for next year as the stores will be putting out decorations, ornaments and toys for the holidays starting just after Easter.

Whatever you celebrate, no matter what time of the year, may it be filled with joy, love and technology!

Have you used QR codes for personal projects? Tell us what you did and share your joy!

QR images supplied by

Speider Schneider

Speider Schneider is a former member of The Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine and has designed products for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, ESPN, Mattel, DC and Marvel Comics, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among other notable companies. Speider is a former member of the board for the Graphic Artists Guild, co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee and a former board member of the Society of Illustrators. Follow him on Twitter @speider or add him on Google+

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