TL;DR: QR codes must be square for proper scanning, but creative elements can be added around the core square for unique and visually appealing designs.

Alright, let's address the elephant in the room – do QR codes always have to be those boring, predictable squares we see everywhere?

In short yes, but...

QR codes must be square for proper scanning by QR code readers. You might have seen various shapes and sizes of QR codes, but the secret lies in how some generators like Short QR add extra elements around the core QR code, creating an illusion of a different shape.

While the central part of the QR code stays square for scannability, creative additions around the edges can make it seem circular, hexagonal, or even heart-shaped. So, the essential square shape is required for functionality, but there's still room for creativity and innovation in QR code design. Let's delve into making your QR codes unique while maintaining their scannability.

Why QR Codes are square

The square shape of QR codes is not an arbitrary design choice, but rather a result of their unique error correction and data storage capabilities. QR codes are designed to store information compactly and efficiently, using a matrix of black and white squares to represent data. The square grid allows for easy scanning by QR code readers, which can quickly identify and decode the information stored within.

QR codes have built-in error correction features that enable them to be read even if they are partially damaged or obscured. This error correction relies on the square shape, as it allows for a consistent and predictable pattern that can be easily analyzed and reconstructed if necessary.

The square shape of QR codes is crucial for their functionality, ensuring efficient data storage, easy scanning, and reliable error correction. While creative additions can be made around the core QR code, the central square shape must be maintained for a QR code to work effectively.

Variations in QR Code Shapes

While the traditional QR code is square, some creative variations have emerged over the years, pushing the boundaries of what a QR code can look like. These variations often involve adding artistic elements around the core square QR code, giving the illusion of a different shape while still maintaining the essential square structure for scannability.

Some common variations include:

  • Circular QR codes: By adding a circular border or design elements around the square QR code, it can appear as if the code itself is circular.
  • Hexagonal QR codes: Similar to circular QR codes, hexagonal designs can be created by incorporating hexagonal patterns or borders around the core square code.
  • Custom-shaped QR codes: Some designers have taken QR code customization to the next level by integrating the square code into unique shapes, such as logos or images, making the QR code a seamless part of the overall design.

It's important to note that these variations still rely on the core square QR code for functionality, and the added design elements should not interfere with the scannability of the code. By striking a balance between creativity and functionality, these variations can help your QR codes stand out while still serving their intended purpose.

Pros and Cons

As intriguing as non-square QR codes may be, it's important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of using these alternative shapes in your marketing efforts. Let's explore the pros and cons of non-square QR codes to help you make an informed decision.


  • Aesthetic appeal: Non-square QR codes can add a unique and visually appealing touch to your marketing materials, making them stand out from the crowd.
  • Branding opportunities: Custom-shaped QR codes can be integrated into your brand's logo or design elements, creating a seamless and memorable experience for your audience.
  • Increased engagement: The novelty of non-square QR codes may pique the curiosity of potential customers, encouraging them to scan the code and engage with your content.


  • Scannability concerns: While the core square QR code is still present, adding extra design elements may potentially interfere with the scannability of the code, leading to frustration for users.
  • Compatibility issues: Some QR code readers may struggle to recognize non-square QR codes, especially if the design elements are too complex or obscure the core code.
  • Design complexity: Creating non-square QR codes may require additional design skills and effort, potentially increasing the time and cost involved in producing your marketing materials.

Non-square QR codes can offer unique benefits in terms of aesthetics and branding, but it's crucial to ensure that the added design elements do not compromise the functionality and scannability of the code. By carefully considering the pros and cons, you can determine whether non-square QR codes are the right choice for your marketing campaign.

Create Custom-Shaped QR Codes

If you're feeling inspired to experiment with non-square QR codes, there are several tools and techniques available to help you create your own unique designs.

The simplest method involves using Short QR's generator, selecting a custom shape, and even adding a frame with text. For a more unique touch, follow this step-by-step guide to create custom-shaped QR codes:

  1. Generate a standard QR code: Use the Short QR code generator to create a standard square QR code containing the information you want to share, such as a website URL or contact details.
  2. Choose a design tool: Select a graphic design tool that allows you to edit and customize images, such as Adobe Illustrator, Canva, or GIMP.
  3. Import the QR code: Open your design tool and import the square QR code you generated earlier.
  4. Add design elements: Begin adding your desired design elements around the core QR code, ensuring that they do not interfere with the scannability of the code. This could include adding borders, and patterns, or integrating the QR code into your brand's logo.
  5. Test the scannability: As you add design elements, regularly test the scannability of your custom-shaped QR code using a QR code reader app on your smartphone. This will help ensure that your design does not compromise the functionality of the code.
  6. Finalize and export: Once you are satisfied with your design and have confirmed its scannability, save and export your custom-shaped QR code in the desired format, such as PNG or JPEG. So you can print your new custom QR code.

By following these steps and using the available tools, you can create unique non-square QR codes that add a touch of creativity to your marketing materials while maintaining their core functionality. Just remember to always prioritize scannability and user experience when designing your custom-shaped QR codes.

Using Non-Square QR Codes

To make your non-square QR code campaign successful, follow these simple tips for design, placement, and user experience:

  • Focus on scannability: Make sure the main square QR code stays easy to scan, even with added design elements.
  • Test with different QR code readers: Check your non-square QR code with various QR code reader apps to ensure it works well.
  • Keep designs simple: Don't use overly complicated designs that might make the QR code hard to scan or confuse users.
  • Use clear contrast: Make sure there's a noticeable contrast between the QR code and its background for better readability.
  • Think about placement: Put your non-square QR code somewhere visible and easy to reach, so users can scan it easily.
  • Give clear instructions: If your non-square QR code looks unusual, include simple instructions on how to scan it and what users can expect after scanning.
Improving QR Code Scannability: Tips for Better Results
Discover tips to improve QR code scannability, ensuring a seamless user experience. Learn about the size, contrast, placement, and more to create effective, easy-to-scan QR codes that reflect your brand.

Non-square QR codes let you add creativity to your marketing while keeping the usefulness of regular square QR codes. By following these easy tips for design, placement, and user experience, you can create interesting and memorable non-square QR codes that do their job effectively.

Creative QR Code Examples

We'll showcase some examples of non-square QR codes that push the boundaries of design while maintaining functionality:

Remember, when designing non-square QR codes, it's crucial to prioritize scannability and ensure that the core square QR code remains functional. By striking a balance between creativity and functionality, you can create engaging and effective non-square QR codes for your marketing campaigns.


While the traditional square shape of QR codes is here to stay, exploring non-square alternatives can add a touch of creativity and uniqueness to your marketing campaigns, as long as you keep in mind the pros and cons of these variations. By following best practices and ensuring scannability, you can create eye-catching and memorable non-square QR codes that effectively engage your audience and serve their intended purpose.