If any of you have children, you may have observed that sometimes they Universal Product Codes (UPC) are on just about every retail item in the US, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the UK. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine products without these barcodes. There are now about 5 billion bar codes scanned every day around the world. According to GS1 (Global Standards One), which is the agency that issues barcode numbers

A little history.

Back in 1973, a group of supermarket executives decided they needed to get some kind of scannable symbol in place to move people through checkout lines faster. They asked 14 companies, including IBM, to come up with a solution with specifications that the ideal symbol would have.

George Laurer who was working at IBM at the time, came up with a design that fit more code into less space. Laurer’s symbol and code was chosen by the “Symbol Selection Committee”, for which they named the Universal Product Code, or UPC. A year later, in 1974, a 10-pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum became the first item to be scanned with a UPC bar code.

Since then, several different types of barcodes such as UPC-A, UPC-E, ISBN-13, ISSN, EAN, and JAN, were developed for various kinds of products and tracking purposes. 

In the early days of barcodes had strict requirements with very little variance. Package designers were locked into specific sizes (mainly too big) and ink color, etc. But as the technology for scanners grew more sophisticated, the main concern now is that it must be scannable. It can be a tremendous problem if a manufacturer’s product was rejected by a major retail chain, if their package was difficult to scan, thereby slowing down the checkout lane. Ok that’s enough background and trivial information. 

The fun part.
How creative can you get with a barcode and still make it past the scanner? Take a look at these examples.

UPC numbers are part of a closed system and must be obtained from the barcode standards body GS1. Since 1973 has software been developed that can generate any kind of barcode right form your own personal computer. And with the available graphic design software, one can get creative manipulating a barcode.

If you have questions about branding your company, we’d love to start a conversation with you. Contact us at: 310-489-8446,, or