Cracking the QR Code
Killeen Independent School District Career Center
All art is communication. Sometimes the artist’s message is very easy to understand;
other times we have to work at teasing out the intent behind the
subtle arrangement of
line, shape, color and value.
In this lesson the student will use the tools of commerce, QR
and Bar Codes, to transcend the commercial origins of the codes and create ar
t that is a
part of both worlds
rld of fine art and the world of commercial art
and in that
process explore how
to create interactivity in art that encourages communication and
understanding between the artist and the viewer
In commercial art the
artist’s intent is overt. His drawin
g is used to promote or explain a
product or an idea
In fine art, the artist still has a message, but the message is more
and the fine artist’s goal isn’t as
much as to promote or explain, but to
are his ideas and feelings with the wider world.
oal of this lesson is to take a
application, the QR code, and use it as a medium of artistic communication
and in doing so learn how technology can serve artistic goals as well as commercial
Marketers and manufacturers use QR codes to s
tore and retrieve information and to
communicate with customers.
Originally, QR codes
, which were invented in Japan in
were first used by the automotive indus
try to track car part
s, but now
on all types of products and advertising. The information they hold
can be made up of anything that is printed as data
, such as numbers,
The message hidden inside can be as simple as a web
or as complex as a poem.
Connections to the AP Course:
Cracking the QR Code
is designed to support the AP course curriculum by emphasizing
composition and the roles texture and patter
play in creating a lively arrangement of
focal point and elem
ents, but, more importantly,
also emphasizes the communication that
all artists have with their viewers. At all point
this lesson the communication, both
literally and figuratively, between
the artist and the view
so that this
lesson is not about simply creating a pattern with visual interest, but creating work with a
. Within the confines of the QR code itself, the artist
student is encouraged to
create engaging and
creative art that
keeps the viewer's interest visually, emotionally and
Student Learning Outcomes
The student will learn how QR Codes are used in industry and advertising.
The student will learn how to use the artistic principles
and elements of pattern,
repetition of shape, and focal point to create unity and to lead the eye around the artwork
in an effective and interesting composition. Texture and pattern as a part of the overall
composition will be emphasized as a lower
The student will learn
to consider the overt as well as the hidden
messages that are a part
of a work of art. As an upper
level learning objective, the student will
the visual aspects of the total work with the messa
ge hidden in the QR code to create a
coherent piece that conveys meaning to the view
and takes advantage of the
interactivity inherent in using QR and bar codes.
eacher Prerequisite Knowledge:
The teacher will
how QR and bar codes
The teacher will need to be familiar wi
th downloading images from the I
basic use of a search engine and a web browser.
To use a QR code you need to first
download a QR scanning application to your smartphone. Then, when you see a code,
you open the scanning application and use the camera in the phone to focus the code on
your screen. The application will unlock the code a
nd if you are connect to the Internet,
automatically give you a link, video, words or an image in your phone's browser.
The teacher will need to b
e familiar with digital graphic
computers, and digital graphics
) OR graphics and drawing
to trace and/or transfer the QR code on to a suitable drawing surface.
Student Prerequisite Knowledge:
The student will need to be familiar with downloading images from the Internet and
basic use of a sear
ch engine and a web browser.
The student will need to be familiar with digital graphics technology (scanners,
computers, and digital graphi
cs software and applications).
This lesson can be taught with
a basic understanding of digital graphics applicatio
ns, but it would be helpful if the
student came in to t
he lesson knowing how to upload
, create, open and save files.
selection tool, compositing skills and the basic use of his applications tool bar would also
be helpful, however this lesson can be
in conjunction with training
those skills, if
Materials and Equipment:
This lesson can be taught with or without sophisticated computer applications
traditional tracing and transferring techniques
, however you will still need
e access to
the Internet for downloading the QR codes
This lesson plan is written with the
assumption that the class will have access to computers with digital manipulation
software such as Adobe Photoshop or Autodesk Ske
chbook or an equivalent.
or it will be helpful to
Access to the Internet, where a student
can download a QR or bar code.
websites come and go, here are a few that you can try out.
Site to create a bar code
Site to create a QR code
Site to create a QR code
Site to create a QR code
Access to a digital scanner to scan original drawings (optional)
Access to a
digital camera for original photographs (optional)
Access to a drawing pad or tablet (optional)
Access to a smart phone (optional, although it's good to have at least one in the
room to test your QR codes with)
smart phone a QR code
QR code readers and bar code readers
downloaded as an app for free.
They are available on Apple, Blackberry,
and Android products.
For more information on downloading a QR/bar code
reader to your phone you can
consult your cell ph
ier or manufacturers website or
assignment is to create an artwork using QR codes as part of the overall
design of an original artwork. The purpose of a QR code is to deliver a message.
job is to
create an artwork that
a message with the visuals
the same time, encourage
audience to interact with
art by finding a relevant
message hidden in
Guide the students to
look at these artists who use QR codes in their artwork
A search engine query using the terms "QR", "code", "artwork",
also turn up samples of QR code
When viewing the artwork, ask your students these questions.
How do the artists
integrate QR codes in their work? In some works the codes are just one element in a
larger work; in other pieces the artwork is hidden in the code or is part of the
Which do you think is more effective as a means of communicating a message and why?
How To Get S
Instructions for Students
Decide on a theme for your art and how the QR code will be used to enhance
the message. Will the code driv
e your viewer to a website? Will it hide a poem or a
Will it answer a question?
You are planning an artwork that is both visual and
has a deep level of interactivity with your viewer. Give them a reason to pull out their
phones and scan your work.
Gather artwork, photographs and drawings you wish to include in your final
work of art.
Sketch out three thumbnails (
minimum) and plan your artwork.
What is your
focal point? What elements are you using to lead the eye
around the page?
to use color in the code or leave it black and white? Is the code going to be hiding in the
work or is it going to
be up front and in your face?
How will your composition and the
elements you use in it enhance your message?
provided web sites, create a QR code with your message.
your message and check it for spelling and grammatical errors.
Use the largest possible
file option that the website gives you. You
may create as many as you want.
(depending on which
website you use) will download or save as a .png or .jpg file. Some
websites will allow you to use color
for the code instead of black and white
, but be
careful and make sure that the colors you use will scan. Read the comments under the
Hints for Working
with QR Codes
Create a file in your application that is
16 x 2
0 inches (landscape or portrait
orientation), RGB mode,
change the specs to suit your
Import your QR codes, artwork, photographs, etc
in to your digital graphics
program and create your
As you work, remember to constantly test your codes
to make sure they continue to be readable.
Hints For Working W
ith QR Codes:
Print, post o
r publish these hints where students can go back and refer to them during the
You can add color and gradients to your QR codes without effecting
readability, but contrast is very important. Keep the colors dark and again
st a light
High contrast will keep the
code's ability to scan intact.
Don't use a reverse,
inverse or negative code because many scanners can't read them.
Roughing up the edges
You can soften the hard edges of the code bars
(the black parts)
and round the corners and the code will still scan, but it's important that the three corner
boxes you see in all co
des stay reasonably whole.
corner blocks are used
by the scanner to li
ne up the
it can be decoded
. If you alter
black boxes and lines
, test your code frequently with your phone to make sure you're not
degrading the code to the point that it's unworkable.
How far can you go
with inserting images or messing up the code
percent of the
QR code's data can be obstructed or missing
and the code will still scan.
You can generate code with
10, 20, 3
0 percent error rate built in.
If your code generator
has the option
, use the highest number of data
input your code generator
words, write lots of stuff.
A paragraph of writing
will create code with
lines and boxes than
with only three word
s and so will create extra squares and lines
in the code and more "noise".
With more "noise" you can remove or manipulat
e more of
the code and it will still work.
How do I know if I've gone to
Figuring out how much
can remove or change is simply a trial and error exercise. Set up your phone to read the
and then scan directly from your computer screen as you're working to see if the
code is still good.
Teacher Learning Outcomes:
This lesson will help teachers improve their skill in teaching composition and the use of
the principle of
texture. QR codes create a strong, eye
catching pattern and as such can quickly become the focal point of a compos
teacher can use this to help students understand how
a viewer's eye
is attracted to pattern
tracks around a composit
ion much the same way a computer scanner tracks and scans
the QR code.
Because of the strong patterns already inside the codes, the students will
need to be very cognizant of their focal point and how to add elements that won't be
overwhelmed by pattern and will contribute to the artist's message.
The teacher will also ne
ed to emphasize the planning process
, no matter how brief,
inherent in all good art. The student must be aware of his message from the very
beginning because it's embedded in the code and he must refer back to his message as he
creates his art.
teacher will need to be familiar with strategies to explain to students how compositions
are designed in the beginning stages with a deliberate intent to create a focal point and to
position elements that lead the eye around the page.
The goal of a formative assessment is to mea
sure progress and understanding and using
the assessment to guide students back on to the right track if they get off course, so the
best time to schedule a formative assessment is in the beginning
of the pr
ocess, not at the
when most of the work has been done.
Ask yourself, as a teacher, these questions
when you look at the formative assessments
Do my students understand the technical demands of this assignment? Am I answering
the same questions from
multiple students about how to manage the computer
applications? If you're answering the same question from several students, you can be
sure that there are students too shy to ask and that area might need re
Look at your student's work and
see if they understand what you mean by "artist's
and how a QR code can tie in another media (a poem, for instance) with the visual
work the student is creating
. Sometimes students take the teacher's description of what an
ntent is too li
terally and think
that your examples are part of the assignment
you end up with 30 students drawing QR codes of "The Raven" and all leading to a Edgar
Allan Poe site
. Reinforce individual creativity and encourage your students to take risks
A rubric for a formative assessment for the QR code project can look like this
with each section counting as 25 points.
, Rubric for a Formative Assessment
The goal of a summative
assessment is to
measure the quality of the product as well as
of the student's knowledge of a subject at a particular point in time
the project is done the teacher will make sure the
goals he had a
beginning of the project have been met.
A rubric for a summative
assessment for the QR code project can look like this
. This simple, three part rubric broadly aligns with the AP Draw and 2D portfolio
and emphasizes composition, t
echnical proficiency and creativity
If you have
included technical lessons as a part of this project (for instance, how to use selection tools
in Photoshop or how QR codes are used in
industry) then now would be good
include an objective test as p
art of the summative grading package.
When you are reviewing this assignment, ask yourself these questions
Did my students understand the technical requirements of this assignment and would I
teach those aspects differently next time? Would I need to
go over how to import photos,
use gradients, composite artwork or any other technical aspects more deeply?
Did my students understand how to use a pattern
as strong and eye
catching as a QR
as part of the overall composition? Did they understand w
hat a focal point was and
did they use the image of the code in the composition in such a way that it either
the focal point?
Did my students understand how to creatively meld different media (artwork and
logy) to create a coherent work of art with a unified message?
In this rubric o
ne point is given for completing and turning in the work on time. Add the
remaining points for a score and then multiply the score by 10 to create a score suitable
Adding a ".5" to a score for those instances where you think it's
merited will not disrupt the math.
, Rubric for a Summative Assessment
Reflection and Critique:
Print off the works on to standard printing paper and tape them
up in a hall or other
public area where all of them can be seen at the same time.
Have your class review them
as a group and allow them to use their phones to interact with the art.
You'll find that some works will not scan and it's a good time to ask y
our students why
they think the art didn’t
Lead them back to the
Hints for working with
if they need to
the technical requirements.
Pass out 3 sticky
notes to each student and ask them to leave a message to the artists,
creating a further interactive loop with the artwork. Guide your students with a brief
reminder of critique etiquette; "Eff
ective critiques are specific.
Saying "this is good" or
"this is bad" is not helpful.
Tell him WHY you did or didn't like a certain e
lement of the
art and WHAT the artist can do to remedy or enhance the features you are talking about.
Tell him WHAT you specifically like
you don't understand.
And before you
walk away, tell yourself what you think is interesting and what you wo
ike to try out
Timeline for Teaching:
This timeline assumes a 55
minute period and that the students do not need training on
using the computer or the digital g
aphic software. This is a six
amount of time you allot depends on the level of complexity you require in the finished
Work that uses type and photographs will take less time than work using original
Introduce the assignment
Investigate other artist's
Discussion of technical problems
Discussion of the
art and items that the student will gather such as QR codes,
raphs, artwork, typography, etc.
Discussion of the grading criteria and the timeline for completion
Remaining time will be used for
investigating QR code websites, developing the idea and
Class time will be used to set up files, create photographs and/or artwork to use in the
Work day for students.
Formative grade assessed to
make sure students are keeping o
n track and are ready to
day for students.
day for students.
Turn in work by the end of class.
Post work in hall and critique.
[A] Handout #3
The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education
"QR Codes Help Paint the Deeper Pictures Behind Art". PC World, Nov.
Kantrowitz, Alex. "Gallery
The 23 Coolest QR Codes." CNN
Money, Nov. 2, 2011
Marketers embracing QR codes, for better or worse
Alice Taylor teaches at the Killeen Independent School District Career Center, a Career
and Technology Education (CTE) school in Killeen, Texas. Her stud
, all juniors and
2D and 3D
programs and non
on career and professional development
in the fields of animation,
She has been teaching AP Studio Art
since 2003 and has been a
Reader for the AP Studio Art Exam since 2010