In March 2015, I was asked to start designs for a custom QR code which would serve to improve users' ability to connect to friends and brands. The goal was to create something unique; something that screamed "Kik" and evoked brand recognition.
The main challenge in designing what would come to be known as Kik Codes was to create something that stored enough data to be functional, and allow for the growth of the feature over time, while looking attractive. QR codes are inherently ugly in their most common format, but that format also happens to be the one that has the largest capacity for information transfer. Therefore, it quickly became clear that we needed to find a compromise between storage and aesthetics, rather than try to achieve both.
The initial idea was to have a chat bubble with a regular QR code inside of it, the centre of which would contain Kik's logo. This wasn't working aesthetically; we needed to get away from the square bits of data that were so reminiscent of QR codes. I took inspiration from Snapchat's scan-to-add feature and decided to use circular bits instead. The largest consideration at that point became how to diffentiate our code from Snapchat's, something I solved by connecting the circles whenever there were runs of them in the same row. Initially I considered connecting the runs between rows as well, but the result was a little chaotic.
The final issue was that the chat bubble made the code appear unbalanced. This led to the idea to have the chat bubble in the centre of the code, with our logo inside of it - just as it was in our iPhone app icon.
The result of the process was a circular code, resembling our app icon in layout and colour, that was much friendlier and more approachable than a regular QR code, thanks largely to the circular bits of data.