Note: The events described in the following post took place a few years ago. Although they were talked, bitched and bitched about a lot in advertising and design circles, just thought I’d add my two bits 😉 More on that later.
If Japanese design firm Design Barcode, Inc (and just for kicks, here’s a link to their weird Japanese website) have their way, the barcodes we know of as those insanely boring black and white strips on packages are on their way to becoming information tags with plenty of cool.
Their plan: Add graphic elements of all kinds on to the basic barcode on the product, in a way that reinforces the product category. So for instance, if the product is noodles, the barcode itself is a graphic of chopsticks holding noodles (which in this case are the bars in the code). Or the barcode takes the form of a Jacuzzi for, oh let’s suppose, soap.
Of course, the designs themselves aren’t means to an end. They have to work. Well, the company vouches for the quality of their customised barcodes and zero instances of false reading by barcode readers. Also, the designs conform to international barcode standards such as UPC-A and EAN-13 – which is no mean feat. Here’s a video (complete with cheesy music!) of their work, more after the jump.
Back to the controversy. The work from Design Barcode caused quite a furore at the Cannes Lions 2006 by winning its coveted Titanium award – and I think for reasons never fully discussed at the time.
Now, this sort of honour is usually reserved for advertising-related work. Meaning usually, a massively-integrated campaign for a brand or a hugely-popular viral exercise – again, for a brand. Product/Industrial design or any effort in that general direction is rarely, if ever, given recognition at these shows. In fact, not since the original Apple iMac (remember Bondi-Blue and its eye-candy cousins?), which won the only gold at the 1999 D&AD Awards and many more since then, has a product-oriented piece of work won any major award at an ‘’advertising ’’ show. Then again, everyone in the ad and design industry holds a torch for Apple – no such love for an obscure company from Shibuya. Though both, in their own ways, are transforming the way we interact with products.
Makes you wonder, huh?