Creative Insights: Jen Cushman

Has it really been a month already? Oh my, I’ve been to the summer CHA show for 5 days, home for a week and then to Art Unraveled, a super-wonderful mixed-media art retreat venue in Scottsdale, Arizona for a week. Back-to-back traveling makes the time fly!

As promised, it’s time to fill you in on what it was like to make my very own QR code, but just in case you need a quick memory jog, some background first on QR codes and tags.

QR (short for quick response) codes are still fairly new in the United States, though gaining rapidly as yet one more marketing tool for a world where smart phones are outpacing digital cameras in sales. These little digital tags are another form of bar codes. The codes have tiny square boxes in each corner and pixels filling in the box. Another form of these are called QR tags, which use a Microsoft platform and are square boxes with tiny triangles inside the square.

Like any new technology, there is not yet a clear leader when it comes to QR tags versus codes. Ultimately, whichever one gets the most consumer interest is the one you will see more of when you pick up a magazine, look at the table top card at your local restaurant, or even see on realtor home sale signs as you drive your neighborhood. QR tags are gaining ground because Microsoft has made it easy to track the analytics on your tag, meaning there’s data that shows how many people scanned your code to take a peek, a big factor when you are an advertising company and you need to report to your clients how you spent their money.

For the average Jane Consumer, QR codes are those funny looking things that seem to be reproducing as quickly as bunnies during Spring. You may not have noticed them the past three or four issues of your favorite magazine, but you’re probably starting to notice them in your peripheral vision. Yes, they are mostly being used for selling products, but I see the potential for them as little digital data packets of education and information, which is why I’m excited about them.

I had been reading about QR since the first of the year. Then right before the summer CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) trade show, a company called WCK On the Spot sent out a message to CHA Designer members offering to do a QR tag with video for a small fee.  This company is well known in the Craft and Hobby industry for doing When Creativity Knocks online educational videos so I knew it was a trusted source. I signed up immediately.

Just so you know, anyone can get a QR code or tag for free. Do a Google search and you’ll find plenty of sites on the Internet making it easy to create your own code in minutes. Artist friends of mine who’ve jumped on the bandwagon recommend and also I haven’t tried these sites, so please understand I’m just passing along the information from people whom I respect.

My decision to pay for the service was based on my code being a one-minute video, that filming would take place at the trade show and that the company would do the filming/editing, host the video as part of the fee and generate the code for me.

I took the advice to heart on what to wear; an outfit that allowed me to hide the microphone, was separates like pants and a top so the mic pack could tuck into the back of my waistband and colors/patterns that looked good on camera. For example, while black is slimming in person, it actually reads flat on camera. (Please look for a future column on filming).

I should have taken the time to write out what I planned to say and timed it with a stopwatch. Since I was rushing to complete design projects for the show, I frankly ran out of time for any kind of prep work. Instead, I practiced my elevator speech in the bathroom mirror while refreshing my lipstick 10 minutes before I walked to the filming area. I do think this hurt me some as I felt that “deer in the headlights” look as soon as the director counted me down to the camera being turned on. However, I chalk it up to a learning experience because I know that once I have my QR tag, I can always switch out new information in the future.

Now for the exciting part. Time to unveil my QR tag for the very first time. If you have a smart phone and want to play along with me, download the free app at and then hold your phone up to your computer screen. Your app will read the tag and my face should pop up on your phone. I, literally, just got my tag a few minutes ago in time for the column debut and I’m excited to see the end result.

I’ll be putting the video on my website, and adding it to my business cards and postcards the next time I place an order. Mostly, I’ll be keeping in my back pocket to pull out as an effective new marketing tool when an opportunity presents itself. Trust me, there’s potential hidden inside these tags. It’s going to be fun to see what develops.

My hope with this column is that if you have a smart phone, you’ll go ahead and download a free QR code reader app so next time one catches your eye, you can whip out your phone to see what kind of information is being offered and if it’s being done in an interesting way.
Jen Cushman is a natural storyteller who found mixed media art a decade ago and never looked back. She is drawn to the imperfect, the funky, the quirky, the artsy and the authentic: be it people or objects or art. She’s also the Director of Education and Marketing for Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin®. To learn more, visit her website


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