Advanced Zapcode Customization

Best Practices

Advanced Zapcode Customization

One of the key benefits of zapcodes is that the design of the code is more appealing to the viewer than the industrial, purely functional design of traditional barcodes.

However, the default black & white style might not be the best choice for every design. Before trying out different designs, it's important to understand what's happening when a zapcode is being scanned with Zappar.

The two main components of a zapcode.

The Bolts and the Bits

First, Zappar identifies the bolt symbol, from the centre of the zapcode.
Zappar then looks outside the bolt for the bits.
These are converted into an ID number, that is passed to Zappar’s servers, which respond with the correct content.

Color Change

To work correctly, the code must have good contrast between the background (light colour) and foreground (dark colour). Black on white provides the maximum contrast, but it’s ok to change these colours.

A basic color change would be to change the background and foreground colors, like this. This still has relatively high contrast between the light background and the dark foreground - and still scans easily.
Trying with 3 colors we now have two different light colours. One for the overall background, and a different one for the bolt. Zappar expects these to be the same colour, however, Zappar can only see in shades of grey.
Here’s how our 3-colour code looks when converted to grayscale. To the eye, the two light colours look the same. If we use the eyedropper tool in Photoshop to double check the values, we’ll see that they come out to the same number - so as far as Zappar is concerned, these are the same colour.

To best mimic the way that Zappar sees grayscale, use a ‘Vibrance’ adjustment layer in Photoshop. Leave the Vibrance setting at 0 but reduce the Saturation down to -100.

Bit Extension

Another useful thing to note is that the ring around the outside is purely aesthetic, so these two zapcodes are both valid:

Integrated Design

Now let’s take a look at how we can use this knowledge to deeply integrate the zapcode into some artwork. This is the front cover of our ‘Little Book of Zaps’, and the character on the front is sporting an unconventional looking code. This code has 3 main colours (which are close enough to two when viewed in grayscale).

This code also displays two more key changes. The bits are being sent in different directions once they’re far enough away from the bolt; the app still sees them when expected.

In addition, the small gaps between the bits have been merged together - this will only work on bits that are immediate neighbours.

Give it a zap and see what happens! Then try modifying your own zapcode’s colours and design.

Open in new window