The Cultural Subversion of Barcode Art

Invented by Bernard Silver in 1948, the barcode went on to become one of the greatest success stories of the late 20th century, adorning most commercially available products around the world. Its omnipresence in modern society makes the barcode particularly appealing to artists, many of whom have featured it in their works.

As well as the power of the barcode as a symbol of commercialism and consumerism, artists are attracted to the bicolour simplicity of the barcode design. While arguably attractive in its own right, the barcode cries out for artistic modification and numerous artists, from Scott Blake to the ubiquitous Banksy, have interpreted it in unique and highly original ways. It has also become a powerful anti-capitalist motif in both tattoo and graffiti art.

1. Barcode Art on the Streets

Banksy isn’t the only street artist incorporating the barcode into his work (not by a long chalk!) Simple to paint and with strong anti-capitalist connotations, the barcode has proved a popular motif for many. Stencilled barcodes can be seen throughout most of the world’s major cities.


Image: trepelu

Barcode Escape

Image: insert_user_name

Space Invaders

Image: shoehorn99


Image: sensesmaybenumbed

Aware Resa

Image: indecliner

Barcode Wall

Image: Fifi LePew

Barcoded Playground

Image: meophamman

2. The Barcode Building of St. Petersburg

This wacky barcode fronted building, in St. Petersburg, Russia, was designed by architects Vitruvius and Sons. As the design suggests, inside you’ll find thousands of products for sale in various shops. Disappointingly, however, the enormous barcode is invalid and says nothing when scanned.

Images: Best Top Design

Image: English Russia

Images: Best Top Design

3. Art. Lebedev’s Striking Barcode Posters

Russian design company Art. Lebedev use a barcode as their company logo. As well as designing graphics and websites, they also come up with fantastic posters, subtly incorporating a barcode into each one.

New Picassos

Image: Art. Lebedev

New Berries

Image: Art. Lebedev

New Melodies

Image: Art. Lebedev

New Sides

Image: Art. Lebedev

New Eyelashes

Image: Art. Lebedev

4. Scott Blake’s Pioneering Barcode Art

Scott Blake is the world’s foremost barcode artist. While many more renowned artists have featured barcodes in their work, none have concentrated solely on them to the same extent. Born in Florida in 1976, his work has been featured in the New York Times and in many exhibitions throughout the United States.

I Am What I Eat

Image: Scott Blake

Barcode Oprah

Image: Scott Blake

Barcode Graffiti

Image: Scott Blake

Summer’s Break Up

Image: Scott Blake

5. The Product Barcode Art of D-Barcode

Japanese firm D-Barcode have redesigned hundreds of barcodes for use on products in their native country. Through their creative approach to design, they have come up with barcodes resembling everything, from aprons to skyscrapers and castles. The best thing about these barcodes is that they actually work!

Image: Avi Abrams

Image: Avi Abrams

Image: Avi Abrams

6. Banksy’s Barcoded Street Art

For those who don’t know, Banksy is the world’s most famous and sought after street artist, his works selling for millions of pounds. Almost all of his work is satirical, poking fun at politics, capitalism and consumerism, hence the barcode, which is a recurring symbol in his stencil paintings.

Barcode Leopard

Image: Jeremy Lay

Barcode Shark 1

Image: Bristol Graffiti

Britney and Madonna Kiss

Image: unknown

7. Barcode Art in Advertising

The power of the barcode as a symbol of consumption is such that it features regularly in advertisements. Some of the most interesting can be seen below.

Shopping in Curtiba

Image: Coloribus

Leagas Delaney London: Barcode

Image: Coloribus


Image: Coloribus


Image: Ads of the World

Coca Cola

Image: Coloribus

Google’s Barcoded Logo

Image: Google

8. The Freaking News Competition

Freaking News held a Photoshop competition to see who could create the most accomplished piece of barcode art. Some of the entries were incredible, as you can see from the selection here.

Young Productions Clone

Image: Lesmack


Image: Ninha

Baby Barcode

Image: Liltim


Image: Graham

9. Tattooed Barcode Art

The barcode became one of the most popular tattoos of the nineties, and although it’s popularity has waned somewhat in recent years, it remains a dominant anti-capitalist motif in tattoo art. If you want a barcode tattoo, but are not quite ready to permanently disfigure your skin, buy some barcode tattoo transfers from Barcode Art.


Image: tinywookie042

Skull Tattoo

Image: Jaume d’Urgell

Super Fan

Image: archiemcphee

About the author:

Tom is a freelance writer, living and working in North London. Fascinated by art, design and gadgets, he spends much of his time writing and blogging on these subjects. His other interests lie in music, film, fashion, football and generally enjoying life!

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  • User Gravatar Scott Blake
    October 7th, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Awesome collections of Barcode Artists. Thanks for showing an interest in my work.

  • User Gravatar Tom Walker
    October 9th, 2009 at 9:40 am

    @Scott – thanks for dropping by! 🙂

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