Design News: ‘Paperlinks’ Using QR Code Technology to Marry the Print & Digital World

By Mani O’Brien
Quick Response codes, a.k.a. QR Codes, are emerging within print advertisements, from beauty retailer Sephora’s Winter 2010/2011 Catalog, to video game Call of Duty posters, to feature film billboards. If you haven’t noticed these black and white pixilated barcodes yet (shown right), you probably will now as they become more prevalent as marketing professionals develop savvy and creative ways to utilize QR Codes for commercial purposes.

Basically, a QR Code is a barcode that can be printed on materials such as business cards, flyers, banners, posters, postcards and catalogs. When someone takes a photograph of the QR Code using a Smartphone such as an iPhone or Blackberry equipped with a barcode reader, the Smartphone is automatically redirected to a Website within its browser. Some examples of how QR Codes have been used by promoters and retailers thus far have been to provide product details, contact information, coupons, or links to social networking sites like  Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, or to YouTube video movie trailers. The QR Codes may also be designed to instruct the Smartphone to make a phone call, or receive a text message. As modern society becomes more engrossed in their Smartphone, the QR Code is a way for advertisers to reach and engage their target market by directing them to a mobile Website for coupons, or any other call to action.


Photo couresty of

John Foley, President/CEO of interlinkOne, a company that specializes in online marketing strategies, recently posted an article on Mobile Commerce Daily, stating, “QR Codes connect people between traditional media and new media in just a matter of seconds, making printed materials truly interactive.”

Currently, Websites like Kawa QR-Code and ZXing allow any user to create their own QR Code for use on printed or Web materials in a matter of seconds. Another start-up company, Pingtag uses QR Codes as a digital business card for sharing LinkedIn accounts and contact information.


Another company is taking the QR Code development a step further. Los Angeles-based company, Paperlinks has developed a platform for scanning, generating and adding content to QR Codes through its iPhone application which became the number one “New & Noteworthy Free” application in the iTunes app store during October and November. Recognizing the opportunity to marry the print and digital world, Paperlinks has integrated its new platform with its sister company,, an online greeting card company whose business is solely dependent on the print industry.

An example of how Paperlinks is making QR Codes relevant is by placing the barcodes on wedding invitations. When the recipient scans the QR Code, they are directed to a mobile Website that provides event details including a map of the event venue, an area to R.S.V.P, additional photos, the ability to save the date in their Smartphone calendar, and the option to make comments much like a social media site. Check out the video below which provides an overview of how Paperlinks has integrated their QR Code app with

“Paperlinks is the first company to bridge digital social communications and traditional printed materials,” says Hamilton Chan, CEO of Paperlinks who was interviewed by “With many other companies focusing their efforts on a digital party planning service or on quality printed stationery, Paperlinks stands apart because we’re doing both with a single solution.”

In a world becoming more dominated by digital content as a means of communication, it seems that the future for many up-and-coming graphic designers will be relative to their ability to embrace new technology to remain relevant. It will be exciting to see new ways in which creative professionals utilize tools such as QR codes into the future to maintain the integrity of print design while embracing digital forms of communication.

“I believe that printing will always have its place,” adds Chan. “We have seen many changes in the industry, but printing has been around for more than 500 years for good reason. However, in order to stay relevant, print will need to join the digital revolution by becoming a trigger point for social and digital interactive content… the big distinction will be adding a digital layer to those printed communications.”

For more articles on QR Codes, click on the articles below:

What Is A QR Code And Why Do You Need One?

In a Nutshell: What Are QR Codes?

Tips for using QR codes in Marketing

Questions/comments? Email the editor, Mani O’Brien at mo’

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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