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August 10, 2022

The Schlafender Hase Team

3 Rules for Barcodes in Life Sciences

Scan right the first time!

They are almost everywhere in our lives today, roaming far and wide, and yet as consumers we hardly notice them. We know them best in retail but we also find them in transport and logistics to track deliveries, in healthcare for labelling and packaging, and virtually everywhere else in our world.

“They” are the common barcode. Whether you are in regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical industry, a graphic designer in an artwork or pre-media agency, in quality control, packaging or printing – here are the big three tips to help you create a perfect barcode or 2D symbol.

1. It’s all about Contrast

Nothing spoils your barcode more than poor contrast. Think zebra here. Barcodes aren’t black and white just to make them dull; these two colors offer the best contrast. Those in the know talk about the Print Contrast Signal (PCS), which is the reflection difference of differing colors. Zebras have a great PCS. While some barcodes are printed in other color combinations, the contrast should always be strong. Some scanners don’t like red, so it should be avoided.

2. Don’t crowd the Waterhole

When push comes to shove, barcodes like to have a quiet zone, which is the empty space around the barcode without blemishes, text or graphics. Without these quiet zones, things get very messy and the scanner will be confused. Think ahead about where you need to place the barcode (not too close to edges, creases, graphics, text, etc.) on labelling and packaging and consult the GS1/ISO specifications. This takes a bit of packaging planning, so keep it in mind from the outset.

3. Does Size Really Matter? For Barcodes, Yes!

Here we are talking about the “magnification factor”, which is the relative size of the barcode compared to its ideal size. There are internationally recognized GS1/ISO specifications for this, but you can’t go wrong if you use a barcode in 100% size. “Hang on, is it really that simple?” No, it isn’t. The barcode formats EAN (European Article Number) and UPC (Universal Product Code) are GS1 standard barcodes, and these symbologies do have a magnification specification. But Code 39 and Code 128 barcodes, for example, don’t define 100%. And while we’re talking about size, best practice would be to avoid truncation if possible, or if you really must, consult the specifications first.

Download your copy of “The 3 Rules” and get 6 additional tips on ensuring accurate Barcodes.

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