When we wrote about QR codes being used to promote tourism, we never imagined they would be featured on manhole covers for that same purpose. But, as it turns out, the water and sewer commission of the Japanese town of Takamatsu did think of it. The city, located on the island of Shikoku, now has manhole covers with QR codes on them. When scanned, these codes lead users to a website that provides information about the city of Takamatsu and its various attractions.
Apparently, the city ran a competition for high school students to find the most attractive way in which QR codes could be made a part of the manhole cover design. The students’ final artworks were reviewed to come up with a design for the proposed manhole covers.
While it’s certainly not the most bizarre use of QR codes (or even the worst), it does give one pause: at what point does the use of QR codes stop being creative, and start being merely gimmicky? On the face of it, the idea of designing attractive manhole covers with QR codes on them seems fine. Manhole covers are a necessary feature of every city and most of us pass them by without a second glance.
By using the hook of QR codes, not only are the officials of Takamatsu trying to render these everyday objects more attractive, they’re also trying to create something of a ‘conversation starter’. There’s no doubt that visitors to the Japanese city will be intrigued by the sight of QR codes on manhole covers, but at what point will the novelty factor start to wear off? Would it, perhaps, have been better for the city officials to use QR codes on posters and placed them at the eye-level of most people? Only time, and the QR code usage stats from Takamatsu, can tell.
Photograph by Elvis Santana (Used for representational purposes only)