Russian and Japanese Barcodes: A New Venue For Artistic Expression

Barcodes or UPC symbols are boring reminders that we are all, among other things, a civilization of consumers. Up until now, there was no distinguishing one from another and surely no one could have envisioned that the day would come when these silly, innocuous thin black lines would reflect artistic talent and creativity. You will be amazed at what can be done with a few straight lines and a push to think outside of a very ordinary box.

Barcodes are unquestionably the bane of the modern graphic designer. Many distribution people compound the headache by insisting on conspicuous white rectangles, which may or may not fit the context involved. The changes are little and subtle, and yet at the same time, enormous. Now picking up a bottle or box at the supermarket may bring a smile to your face, not because of a price reduction but rather from a funny unexpected face or form smiling back at you from the label on the back of the package.

Who were the first to create these amazing barcodes?

The focus is on Russia but the first country to transform barcodes into an art form originated in Japan via a company named Design (D) Barcode. In 2005, Design Barcode was awarded the Good Design Award in the Communication Design category and has since created “designer barcodes” for major company brands, such as Suntory, Calbee, Wacoal and others. As you view these designs below, you will be amazed at the innovative creativity demonstrated. Design Barcode has now partnered with PACARC, LLC, a company, which is a leader in bringing the most innovative products from Japan to the United States.


Who started the Russian barcodes?

Not to be outdone and very close behind in artistic creation and innovation is the Art Lebedev Studio in Russia, which was founded in 1995 by Artemy Lebedev. Living for and by its motto of “design will save the world”, this art studio does not accept projects from private citizens, and political or religious organizations. They strictly create industrial and graphic design from commercial establishments.

What are some details about the Lebedev Art Studio?

As of December of last year, the Lebedev studio has had six principal art directors and over 200 employees. Considered the leading web studio in all of Russia according to the ratings of Russian advertising research company, AdMe. The studio began with solely graphic design and then expanded to include interfaces, web design and industrial design. It also boasts an educational center, a publishing house, a media department and several software teams.

The Art Lebedev Studio is owned by the holding company Art Lebedev Group (ALG), which also owns several other design and advertising companies. Russian and English are both available on the company’s website as well as examples of the type of unique work done in the studio. The Russian version of the site offers web technologies and technological advice, and to accentuate the Lebedev studio’s particular predilection to typesetting, the site itself is typeset as if it were a printed book!

What are some of the noteworthy designs depicted by this studio?

Besides some of the unusual barcodes depicted below, the Lebedev Studio designed the Russian search engine, Yandex, the news sites, Lenta.Ru and Gazeta.Ru as well as Russian promotional websites for Microsoft and Intel. In 2007, the Lebedev studio designed the inaugural issue of Russia Magazine, an English language periodical about Russia.














Who are some other innovators in the world of barcodes?

Russia’s Inbox Magazine recently interviewed an American artist named Scott Blake . He is known for making portraits with barcodes and he had this to say about his choice of subject matter:

“It makes me happy to know people in other countries, who speak different languages, are still able to appreciate my artwork. I choose the barcode symbol because it reduces everything to white and black marks. It equalizes the world with an objective scan. Coke or Pepsi, Jesus or Buddha, American or Russian, Dead or Alive is all the same to the barcode. The system of bars appears random, but the computer easily understands this chaos. I try to look at the world from a computer's point of view.”

The enhancement of the consumer experience offered by these entertaining barcodes is brilliant on many levels. Like so many extraordinary ideas, this is a simple one achieved by creative souls who dared to dream and think outside the conventional box.

For more about Japanese Barcodes, make sure to check out Barcode Art from Japan

Oct 2, 2008
by M Dee Dubroff
M Dee Dubroff's picture


 Hi Andrerw,

Thanks so much for the kind words!

I really  enjoyed doing this piece and these codes are definitely cool beyond words! 

Best to you 



Yours in Words,

M Dee Dubroff

Russian Innovations

Oct 3, 2008
by Anonymous

I agree

very cool, they should do it in a lot of countries.

Oct 3, 2008
by Toby
Toby's picture

love it!

It's great to see ingenuity wherever it comes!

Oct 3, 2008
by M Dee Dubroff
M Dee Dubroff's picture


Thanks, Toby,

I appreciate your support.

I worked hard on this piece!


Yours in Words,

M Dee Dubroff

Russian Innovations