Covert QR Codes

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Published:  August 15, 2011
Covert QR Codes

Sick of QR Codes delivering little more than a website hyperlink? Then it’s time you checked out F.A.T Lab’s QR Stenciler.

The Free Art and Technology Lab, based in New York, are a quasi Robin Hood for the digital age. Taking back technology, the F.A.T Lab is dedicated to making the public domain a richer, more welcoming, and open place for all. Or as F.A.T say, “supporting open values and the public domain through the use of emerging open licenses, support for open entrepreneurship and the admonishment of secrecy, copyright monopolies and patents.”


With over 100 free codes being generated, those little black squares can now be put to good use to provide quick bytes of insider information. The F.A.T Lab provides downloadable, vector based stencils that are suitable for laser cutting, meaning that you can be covertly shaping the urban information landscape in no time. Download, cutout, mark and then sit back and see how people scan the code to quickly gain directions, information and tips. Available codes include, ‘insecure Wi-Fi’, ‘bad coffee’, ‘cheap drinks’ and ‘overpriced’.

F.A.T Lab says the QR codes are based on ‘hobo signs‘, the 19th century chalk-drawn symbols that allowed ‘vagabonds and migratory workers to cope with the difficulty of nomadic life’. The signs meant that the nomads could gain local knowledge of the area and the populace that inhabited it. Much more recent times has seen a massive increase in domestic and international travel by the western population, with most wanting to cast off the tag of tourist and instead wanting to know the local hangouts, restaurants and bars. The hobo signs provide just enough information to further entice or encourage escape.

The only condition for using the F.A.T Lab stencils? That they never be repackaged or abused for commercial purposes – I’m assuming the Lab’s stencil reads something like, “We have a soul!”

All Images Copyright The Free Art and Technology Lab

2 Responses

  1. Such a good idea! I can think of plenty of places that this could come in handy, and some places that deserve to have some of the more critical placed out the front of them… Especially one for bad coffee!

  2. With the popularity of QR codes, this is a nice difference. Let’s hope we start seeing them in Australia.

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