1D vs. 2D barcoding: which one should you be using?

When you're deciding on a barcoding system for your goods, the main dilemma is figuring out which system works best for your needs. With two main categories of barcodes with a variety of uses, it is important to weigh the benefits of 1D vs 2D barcoding.  

What are 1D and 2D barcoding?

Linear, or 1D barcodes, are, as the name implies, a one-dimensional representation of data in parallel lines and spaces holding up to 85 characters depending on the symbology being used (e.g. Code 128, UPC, EAN, etc.). These barcodes work best in high contrast, ideally black lines on white spaces. 1D barcodes are ubiquitous in retail product labeling, shipping and transportation, identification, and a plethora of other applications.

On the other hand, 2D barcoding is a square arrangement of black and white squares. The most familiar application is QR codes, but other symbologies exist and overall have more versatility in what they can contain. While 1D codes can only have English letters and numbers, 2D barcodes can have those as well as pictures, voice, and many other binary applications in a smaller code. Other 2D symbologies include Data Matrix, Aztec, and Maxicode. 2D barcodes are used most frequently for mobile marketing and embedding links, recordings, etc. in a format that can be read by QR code readers in barcode scanners and smartphones alike. Which barcoding system is better?

It's not so much that one system is superior to the other--it's more a matter of using which system is more appropriate for the situation. For instance, you don't need a 2D barcode to label products to be sold commercially. However, a 1D barcode is very limited as to what it can communicate so it isn't necessarily ideal for connecting material objects with online content, promo codes, videos, and other media related to your brand.

Overall, one-dimensional barcoding will cover most of your needs adequately, but the advantages and versatility of two-dimensional barcodes should not be glossed over. A good variety in usage of both is ideal.  

For more information on these and other barcoding solutions, please feel free to contact us.

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