Many designers pay lip service to the idea of interacting with end users, but Anita Modha and Jonathan Nodrick of Vancouver-based Rollout mean it: Their bold yellow QRious wallpaper, currently on display at the Design Exchange in Toronto, is peppered with 169 pixilated black and white boxes known as QR (short for quick response) codes. Each box consists of a unique modular pattern plus black squares positioned in three of the corners to triangulate a message. Point a smartphone at any of codes in Rollout's print and it downloads a website favoured by the designers, including one that offers tips on napping.
For media and marketers, QR codes offer a new way for consumers to engage with their brands. But now designers are starting to exploit their potential, often in tandem with commercial interests.
Information on the entire DX show featuring the Rollout paper and other examples of innovative Canadian design, for instance, is available via QR code. To help visitors access the messages, BlackBerry donated three devices to the exhibition, which is called Bent Out of Shape and runs until Oct. 10. The scanning application (or "app") is free on any smartphone.
"It's something we had been toying with," DX curator AnneMarie Minardi says. "Not specifically that medium, but seeing what others were starting to do in terms of using interactive technology."
Outside Canada, Italian artist Fabrice de Nola has been incorporating the technology into paintings and photographs since 2006, while Japanese artist Takashi Murakami collaborated with creative agency SET last year to design a stylized pattern for Louis Vuitton that incorporated his famous anime characters.
In the first five seconds of Kylie Minogue's new video for All the Lovers, a coffee cup and plastic bottle bearing QR codes fall to the ground, apparently revealing the word "love."
Rollout, however, may be the first outfit to incorporate the codes into wallpaper, its specialty. "Part of the beauty is in the installation itself," Nodrick says, pointing out the precision with which it had to be hung. "If it didn't match up, the information would be disrupted."
In this regard, the success of the technology very much depends on an old-fashioned skill: If Rollout ever decides to market QRious – it's currently just a prototype – you'd still be in need of a good paper hanger.