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Bar codes get artsy (photos)

Companies are getting creative with product codes, adding images to the familiar black-and-white striped bar code.

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Eric Smalley
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Olive tree bar code

Lately, companies are loosening up when it comes to the look of the parallel lines in the standard bar code, and more playful product codes are starting to show up on store shelves. The bar code on this package of Verdi olives harks back to the product's origin. Scroll through our gallery for a sample of the range of "vanity bar codes" currently showing up on packaging or being sold by bar code design firms.
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Bar code on coffee filters

The bar code on this package of Melitta coffee filters takes the form of a bamboo grove.
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Bar codes as drink glasses

The bar codes on these Japanese juice boxes represent the empty space in juice glasses. Very Zen.
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Bar codes as hair

Most creative bar codes use the vertical lines as elements of an interesting design rather than simply putting a pretty frame around the code. The bar codes on these Japanese hair care products serve as shading for line drawings of women's hair.
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Bar code as waterfall

Several design firms are catering to this emerging market, including Design Barcode and Vanity Barcodes. Here, bar code as waterfall.
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Bar code as toothbrush

Bar code as toothbrush. If we consumers, not to mention cashiers the world over, have to look at these black-and-white graphics all the time, they can at least be interesting. Anything beats having prison bars called to mind every time you pick up a loaf of bread.
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Bar code as tissue box

Bar code as tissue box. As The Wall Street Journal points out in a recent feature on vanity bar codes, adding one can be expensive because new packaging is needed. Nestle has gradually included vanity bar codes when redesigning packaging or launching new products.
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Bar code as wind turbines

Bar code as wind turbines.
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Bar code as tomato

Bar code as tomato.
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Bar code as chewing gum

Bar code as chewing gum that's been trod upon.
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Bar code as mix tape

This mix tape bar code puts some groove into the purchasing equation.
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12 of 13 Vanity Barcodes and Miller Creative

Bar code as mixer

Bar code as mixer.
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13 of 13 Vanity Barcodes and Miller Creative

Barcode as meat cleaver

Bar code as meat cleaver. "The cleaver slices through the clutter and gets your product noticed. Great for kitchen accessories and more," says Vanity Barcodes.

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