QR Codes

Short for quick response code, a QR Code is a scannable barcode that points to a website. It is commonly used in print marketing materials. Viewers can use the camera or an app on a smartphone or tablet to scan the code which will then open the assigned website URL. Want to share this information with your colleagues? Download the presentation slides from the recent training. Download the QR Code Guide.

How to use a QR Code for communications 

QR Codes can be a useful tool in your communications toolbox when used in the right place. Use QR Codes on physical items to make it easier for someone to immediately get access to digital information.

When and where to use QR Codes 

  • Yes: On printed material such as signs, flyers, table displays, mailers, brochures, menu cards, fact sheets, and digital PowerPoint slides.  
  • Yes: To get to: Registrations, surveys, a map, a fact sheet, social media accounts, a video.  
  • Yes: To send someone directly to the content. Example: To the digital event registration form, not to the calendar listing.  
  • No: On graphics that appear on a website or social media. On billboards. For an audience that doesn't understand how to use it.

One exception to the digital graphics rule is PowerPoint slides for in-person presentations. For example, audience members can scan a code that leads to a survey. 

Examples of how QR Codes are used in Extension

  • On a flyer to an event registration  
  • In a garden for plant identification
  • At an event linking to a guide or map
  • On a direct mail piece with limited space (a postcard)
  • After a presentation to get to an evaluation
  • A job hiring flyer  

How to apply a QR Code

QR codes are only useful if they work. Consider where the print piece will be placed, where people will be scanning from, and who might be scanning it. 

The QR Code should:

  • Be at least 1” wide 
  • Be black on a solid white background 
  • Not be skewed, tilted, or fuzy

The design piece should:

  • Only have one QR code 
  • Also include a text short URL (go.illinois.edu/...)
  • Have a call to action to encourage use such as “Scan this to get started”
  • Leave space around the QR code
  • Be tested


How to make a QR Code 

There are a variety of ways to make a QR Code. We recommend Extension employees use either WebTools or Canva.

Watch a 5-minute video tutorial: How to Make a QR Code.


The benefit of using WebTools is that administrative permissions for the short url/QR code can be shared with other employees, it can be redirected to a new URL at any time, and you can see a report how many people used it. 

  • From webtools.illinois.edu, navigate to the Short URL tool 
  • Select the “+Create” yellow button. In the next window that opens, select “go.illinois.edu” as the domain and select the “Create Short URL” blue button.  
  • Add the short URL text in the “name” field and add the website address in the “Long URL” field. Select the “Save” yellow button.  
  • A new field will appear at the bottom called QR Code. Select the box and then select the save button. This will create a code that you can click to open and download.


  • From www.canva.com, scroll down on the left-side menu. Under “Tools,” select “Discover Apps.” 
  • Enter “QR Code” in the top menu search bar. Select the first option.  
  • Select either “use in existing design” or “use in new design.”  
  • In the left-side menu enter the URL and select “Generate code.” The code will be inserted into the design.