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BARCODES TAKE A NEW ARTISTIC TURN

BARCODES TAKE A NEW ARTISTIC TURN

Beer, granola, juice and olives are sporting barcodes that integrate famous buildings, blades of wheat and bubbles into the ubiquitous black and white rectangle of lines and numbers. Consumer-goods companies hope these vanity barcodes will better connect with customers.

The trend is popular with smaller companies, and even one of the world's largest food companies, Nestle SA, is trying out vanity barcodes on its smaller brands.

When Sixpoint Brewery planned to launch a line of canned beer this year, the Brooklyn, N.Y., company set out to fashion the perfect can design. It soon realized, "you need this big, ugly barcode so people can scan them," says Shane Welch, president of Mad Scientists Brewing Partners LLC, which owns Sixpoint. "I thought, why can't we do our own custom barcode?" Launched last month, the silver cans bear a barcode that integrates the Statue of Liberty and skyscrapers.

A handful of companies that specialize in making vanity barcodes have cropped up in recent years, though some companies create them in-house.

Some vanity-barcode designs aim to be elegant, others quirky. Design Barcodes Inc., a Tokyo-based ad and design firm, created barcodes with lines that look like water flowing over a waterfall or the rails on a train track. Yael Miller, co-owner of Vanity Barcodes LLC, in Lakewood, N.J., says one of her favorites is a hand mixer design she created to look as if the barcode is mixing up the numbers below it.

Some companies are hesitant to tinker with the barcode, says Steve Rosen, co-founder of Pacarc LLC, which distributes Japanese products in the U.S. and is the exclusive U.S. partner of Design Barcodes. If a barcode doesn't scan it could "really put the retailer in a pinch," says Mr. Rosen. A manufacturer might have to reprint all the packaging. He says Design Barcodes' products are tested before going on the market.

Adding a vanity barcode can be expensive because new packaging is needed.

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Article by SARAH NASSAUER, The Wall Street Journal | Read full article here