Introduction: Decoder Business Card - QR Coded Secret Message

Picture of Decoder Business Card - QR Coded Secret Message

Having a good business card can help you maintain contacts, promote yourself and your business, and make friends. By creating a personal business card that involves the recipient actively translating your card will make him more likely to remember you and share your card.  

Remembering the decoder rings and my fascination with secret messages I thought I could make an interesting business card that could not only tell a story, but give useful information on how to contact me. I did this first using just a block out grid stencil, and secondly with a QR code acting as the grid. 

Here's a video demo:

Step 1: Write Out the Story

Picture of Write Out the Story

This is the fun part. You can be creative here and write a fun story or any sort of document. A bit of spam perhaps, or something that describes your work. That is one of the more interesting things you can do with a decoder business card. Rather than worry about cramming all your contact info along with something that describes what you do. You can add both!

Make sure to include all the characters you want decoded.  I started with a "B" because I wanted the first part of my name to show up on the upper left. 

Step 2: Edit the Stencil With a Vector Graphic Program

Picture of Edit the Stencil With a Vector Graphic Program
Using Adobe Illustrator or inkscape run through the following steps:
  1. Create a business card sized rectangle over your story.
  2. Put the transparency down to 50%
  3. Draw the white rectangles that highlight the text you want to show up.
  4. With the pathfinder tool find the exclusion.
You have now created the stencil! Cut it out or follow the next step to create a sun decoder card.

Step 3: Print the Stencil

Picture of Print the Stencil

You can either print both the decoder image and the text separately. Or by flipping the image and printing it upside down attached to the text (see image two) you create a card that you can read by flipping it inside out and looking through it at a light source. 

Step 4: QR Code Version

Picture of QR Code Version

To do this with a QR code as a stencil you first need to create a QR code. By making the QR code translate to the text you want encoded on the front you create an interesting situation where the person decoding your card can either decode it digitally or by using the structure of the QR code also decode the SAME message by hand. Use this generator to create your code: 

Once you have your QR code you now have the image you will also use as a decoder stencil. 

Step 5: Create the Text to Decode

Picture of Create the Text to Decode

Yay! More creative writing! This time you use the QR code under 50% transparency and write your text so that all the text you want decoded appears under the white part of the QR code. Flip the image again and place it under the text to use as a folding decoder and you're done with your second decoder business card! Let's pass them out and use them!

Step 6: Give It Out to People:

Picture of Give It Out to People:

Business cards serve many purposes. Having a IQ testing business card may make you stand out from the stack of cards in someone's drawer. Here's some images of the cards being used. 


CharlineCaisse (author)2015-07-28

Now this is what I call creative advertising!

BartholomewH (author)2015-06-21

So damn original!

imageat (author)2014-06-05


DUO0037 (author)2013-11-06


Delete_ (author)2013-08-30

What does it say

DUO0037 (author)Delete_2013-11-06

It says Man of mystery and printing!

MercuryCrest (author)2012-01-01

I really like this idea, but I also wanted to give you a head's up that most of your main images read, "Image not found."

wupme (author)2009-12-27

I still wonder if there is an free Windows QR Code generator, or maybee a PHP one. I could use them so much... :(

Fred82664 (author)wupme2009-12-29

LINUX has FREE QR coder. and the best thing of all about Linux it is FREE and has 1,000 s of other FREE software that can let do whatever you want to do with it. You will not find as much FREE software for widows of the Freedom to as you want to do with it.
 That is L I N U X ,,,,,The FREE WORLD OS !!!!!!!!
But if you want to spend your money on Microsoft products over the FREE things you may vary well do so ! 

wupme (author)Fred826642009-12-30

Why is it all Linux people cant just say "There is a free QR Coder for Linux. Its named xxxx"
It always has to end on Free Free Free Opensource and then something about Microsoft.

I actually use Linux, but my main machine always will have Windows as OS until Linux freaks find a way to really run everything on Linux (wich you still cant) or give me an Linux alternative to some Applications (there are still a lot of applications where the alternatives just can't hold up)

So in the End your Answer doesnt help me at all because you didnt even tell me the name of that application/package.

Oh and just for information, i actually got 3 Linux boxes and 3 Windows boxes.
So i aint a Linuxhater ;)

install adobe AIR and get this it'll work cross platform since it's an AIR app and AIR is a runtime available cross-platform
the app itself is a little touchy since it uses webcam and most webcams dont have a focus. but i've gotten it to read with my eeepc

Fred82664 (author)wupme2009-12-30

If I could remember what the name of the app was I would of posted it I been using Linux for over 10 years and found every thing I in opensource that I could ever use or ever needed a windows box for! !! yes some things need a little code tweaking to work beiter or  fit what I need.  Linux proveds many of tools to do  that with as well. it just make you use your code skills better or learn more about programming.  step up to the plate of C, C++, or any of the other programing languages that Linux distos have to offer  for FREE !!!! YES FREE FREE FREE old Microsoft dose not give out VB or any other programing software for free.  you will never see the source code any Microsoft products  being handed out freely so a user can tweak it .  so if I get some app that dose not do what I want it to do but comes close on a Linux box I can get the source code and make it work or do what I want it to do.     

Javin007 (author)Fred826642010-01-04

Um.  I'm a VB.NET programmer.  I've been using the free version of VB.NET Express that Microsoft has given out for years.  (For FREE!)  I write free video games.  I write free apps.  In fact, there's a good deal more free applications for Microsoft OS than for Linux.  There's a ridiculous amount of open source apps for the Windows platform. 

I'm not even a 'Nix hater, it's just that if you're going to trash an OS, please educate yourself and do it for the right reason, such as buggy, incomplete, and expensive operating systems, applications that are never even marginally tested before being released to the general public, etc.

I'm still looking forward to the day when Linux will actually run many of the applications that most people find to be a necessity, much less have a DirectX port, or even a decent version of OpenGL that's thoroughly developed... Yep... Still looking forward to that day...

wupme (author)Javin0072010-01-05

Lets face it.
Microsoft bashers just love to complain about alot of things.
Usually also because Windows would be "unstable" or "crash all the time", because they just dont know how to handle it.
And then they start with OpenSource and GPL. Then forget that there are a lot of free applications (even a lot under GPL) for Windows too.
Even Microsoft offers actually a lot of stuff as free versions.
And DirectX and OpenGL is another reason not to switch my main desktop to Linux.
Love to see somebody using 3D Studio on it.

It doesnt matter what we say, we are always wrong and have to proof like everything.
We use Windows so we are always wrong...
I just say, Linux & Windows are both good and strong operating systems.
We for shure need both of them.
But Linux aint doing it for anybody, and if you want to use certain applications then it doesnt matter how good you know your Linux.
And there also aint a good linux alternative for every application.

Maybee some day it will be like that, but today it aint.

If somebody is happy using linux, thats great.
If somebody is happy using windows, thats great too.

Fred82664 (author)wupme2010-01-05

well look at the true facts Microsoft has had so much news as flailing win 98 on its first showing for the mane stream booted up to blues screen of death and faced much security problems. moving the time line up there is tons of factual news mostly bad works in Microsoft. No one hears any thing like that about Linux. Fact are the facts what works and what dont

wupme (author)Fred826642010-02-04

Yeah strange i hear of security problem on linux systems too.
A friend of mine is running a pretty huge hosting company, and guess what, alot of security fixes.

But anyway your just that kind of person that can't bring up any real arguments.
All that i see from you is a polemic bashing on Microsoft without bringing anything to the discussion except that YOU hate Microsoft.

When you find some real arguments your welcome, otherwise i'm not gonna look further into your trolling. You already have been proved wrong.

When you then look at your own userpicture you see that there is no point in arguing with you anymore,.
Have a nice life.

bounty1012 (author)wupme2010-03-06

I'm with you, I've run Windows XP for years and I don't see a need to upgrade my system or switch to linux. I play a lot of video games and I'm still using my old PC from 2006.

hintss (author)bounty10122011-03-24

you forgot the monthly patches.

hintss (author)wupme2011-03-24

and so, its better to leave them unfixed like microsoft?

Fred82664 (author)wupme2010-02-05

I depends on what distro of Linux used and how the user sets it up as to how secure the Linux box is. funny thin I see about win7 is what MS calls "new  security technology" is the same things Linux has been doing for years as for your care of my life thank you I live vary well by the way. as for the MS argument history tells the truth of there dishonest and dirty business practice. As a tech MS is a money maker for me I can bill stupid people with lots of money to fix there junk OS, AND THAT I DO VARY MUCH SO LIKE about windows  $$$$$$$ in my pocket      

Archive555 (author)Fred826642010-03-13

On your topic of bashing the so-called "new security technology", it's new for the platform. Even if they did 'copy' it from Linux, that's only because they accepted that it's a good idea and found it useful.

The only problem in this case is that Microsoft can't afford to take the chances that Linux can, and as such may not come up with so many innovative ideas as Linux might. Also, Linux only has so many great features because of the fact that it's user-built. The entire community helps turn Linux into the great OS it is today. It still has serious flaws though.

As does Windows.

I use both Windows XP, Windows 7, and Linux, and I always will. Linux is great, but it can't do (or can't do as well/as easily) as Windows. Another flaw about Linux is that because there are so many different, custom distributions, not all programs that can run on one distro will run on another. If something runs on my Windows XP, it'll run on my friends Windows XP. It'll run on anyones XP.

Arbitror (author)wupme2010-06-26


Javin007 (author)wupme2010-01-05

As a complete side-note, you mentioned using 3D Studio (Max?).  Are you a 3D Modeler by any chance?  Perhaps looking to do some freelance work?

wupme (author)Javin0072010-02-04

Im basically an artist of all sorts, but 3D modelling is a part of what i do (or better did).
But at the moment i try to get things in life sort out and don't see i could be any usefull as a freelancer right now.

Fred82664 (author)Javin0072010-01-04

so where dose one get the FREE VB.Net ? I do not see a link to it in your posting
and for the count  of free Linux APPs  there is well over 1500 just in depository of ubuntu. and for your looking for the newest distros and Linux news check out  so if microsoft is giviving VB.Net out for free and legel cool tell us how and where to get put a link up . another words back what your saying. it is so esey to post false clames online. I seen many of them 

Javin007 (author)Fred826642010-01-05

Well, it took me approximately 5 seconds to find it, and I would have assumed someone who claims to be as knowledgeable as yourself would understand the nuances of a tricky little tool called "google."  But as this doesn't appear to be the case, I'll explain.

First, open your web browser (in Windows, that's usually Internet Explorer, Firefox (free) Opera (free) Chrome (free) or numerous other FREE browsers.  Not sure what it would be in Linux, though I understand that as despicable as Windows is, in Linux there's a hard push to try and emulate it (called Wine) so you could check there as well.

Next, enter the following address in the "address bar."  This is generally located at the top of the browser:

Once there, you will see a "search" text box.  As I mentioned, VB.NET Express is the free version of VB.NET that I've used for years.  To search for it, type in:
VB.NET Express

I understand how this can be confusing.  Then press the "Search" button.

The first link on the page will be to the download page for the free version of VB.NET express. 

To simplify, here is the link:  Free VB.NET

Fred82664 (author)Javin0072010-01-05

think your funny . I know how to use google . I know to the Microsoft has more security bugs among other nasty problems then any other OS available so why would I even find any of there software useful to me in the first place. as far as the rest of your insult you just show me your just a young inbred punk that has no concept of professional intelligence!  your mentality of a 10 year old show boldly       

Javin007 (author)Fred826642010-01-05

And now you resort to the name calling... So typical... I'm done with you.

Fred82664 (author)Javin0072010-01-05

I had  nothing to do with in the first place !  You was the one that rudely butted in and made the insult Thus showing your personality !! making comments with lose facts.  All I asked for was links Not rudeness.  Facts are the Facts Microsoft's
programing code  DOSE NOT GO BY THE IEEE STANDARDS  and FACT Microsoft has had so much bad history of security bugs,,,Crashes world wide tons of Medea promoting how unreliable Vista and windows has been. 
FACT Linux has been the BACK BONE of the INTERNET as well as MANY LARGE COOPERATIONS. FACT it take Linux firewall boxies to protect windows networks from intruders FACT CISCO devices are run on Linux OS  Now use google and see for your self the FACTS          

wupme (author)Fred826642010-01-05

If you actually did a 4 second google search...

wupme (author)Fred826642009-12-31

There is still to much stuff i simply cant run on linux, stuff where even some of the best "Linux Geeks" say "dude i would use Windows for that"

Strange i got Visual Studio 2005 for free from Microsoft.
They actually got occasionally such promotions going.

And there are other IDEs that are always free.

I dont got any problem with the way Microsoft handles things, and in the end Windows and Linux are both really good operation systems.
Just for my Desktops, linux just doesnt do it for me.

Maybee you found everything you ever needed, i didn't.
But im pretty shure thats because i use different software for different purposes then you. :)

Fred82664 (author)wupme2009-12-31

well I can see your side of the fence as if I was standing on it  VS 05 for free wow That is new news to me glad some one got some thing from them on the free side. I have yet got any thing free from them well ok OS crashes and I still had to pay for the OS. However I around Linux 10 years now.  MS might feel a bit guilty doing dirty business and I missed it. Any ways if you try hard enough you will find that you can out do even the those other Linux geeks using Linux for all your needs. It dose take time and work but it can be done. ***********************

May 2010 be a better year for you and  all of us        

Arbitror (author)wupme2010-06-25

I fully agree with you, just ignore the stupid kids, and enjoy Linux! ;) Way to go!

Fred82664 (author)Arbitror2010-06-25

Thank You ! it is vary funny that all of the companies that run Microsoft Networks but use a LINUX OS to protect it as well as LINUX controlled switches.

Arbitror (author)Fred826642010-06-25

??? I was talking to wupme...

cynthia.burke (author)wupme2009-12-28

Here you go:

free & easy to use

wupme (author)cynthia.burke2009-12-30

Yeah but then i have to rely on an API that could be offline.
I want something i can run locally :(

cynthia.burke (author)wupme2009-12-30

Yeah, I understand. I use it since I figure the odds of google being off-line are fairly low.

wupme (author)cynthia.burke2009-12-31

Yeah thats true, google offline is really a rare thing.
But im also not always able to get online and still need to prepare stuff :)

Javin007 (author)wupme2010-01-05

Yeah, unfortunately, I've had to rely on online apps to generate QR coding myself.  The QR format isn't EXACTLY unlicensed, the owner of it just hasn't (yet) gone out to sue anyone using "his" code format.  You DO, however, have to pay a good chunk just to get the specifications if you wanted to create your own.  I've not looked hard enough to track down a spec sheet for free so I could write my own.

That being said, if you need something to generate code on the fly, depending on the amount of data you're needing to embed, you could always just use the standard UPC bar codes quite easily.  That standard is free, and I even made my own TrueType 3 of 9 standard font for it.  There is, naturally, a limitation to the number of characters you can handle using it, though.  

Additionally, the QR coding is rather complex (there are internal format variations, CRC checks, etc.).  I'm curious as to why with all the complexity and difficulty someone hasn't come up with a similar, open, free, and easy format?  

vincesoriano (author)wupme2009-12-28

rocketsurgery (author)2010-01-22

Great way to make people think and actually bother to look at your business card. Love the idea!

Javin007 (author)2010-01-05

Personally, I think this idea is awesome.  It's an interesting and unique way to engage those that you've given your business card to, and as anyone in marketing will tell you, the longer you can get someone's eyes to look at your brand, the more likely they are to remember it when a situation comes up where they can use it.  I applaud you, and will actually be trying to figure a good way to use this for my own business cards.

Xandertron (author)2010-01-01

Clearly the only way for me to top this is to make a pop-up business card.

Fred82664 (author)2009-12-29

I don't know where you do your business but here in the USA time is money if it takes more time for a client to figure out who I am or what my business  can do for them then I am losing money by two ways. 1 the time factor 2 the client need my services NOW  and not wasting his time to decipher who I am or how to contact me.  Thus the client would turn to a competitor that can be reach in less time and effort on there part. result lose of business.    
However this would be a cool home made security pass key  using a LED box and light censer code reader. HUMMM!!!!! I think I see a new project someone will be posting in the next year.      

jefgat (author)2009-12-27

This is just misguided. Really an awful idea.
Turning your business card into a puzzle shows that you're more invested in your own cuteness than you are in making a clear and substantial business contact. This will not  "l make him more likely to remember you and share your card...." It will more likely make him look once with a detached "what the...?" look on his face, just before tossing it in the wastebasket.
this may be fun for you and your friends, but completely misses the function of an effective communicative device.
Cute but useless.

trebuchet03 (author)jefgat2009-12-28

I see it more of a filter.

If you don't get it - you aren't the type of contact to cultivate (no worries, the feeling will likely be mutual) :) This is especially so in circles of design, creativity and etc.

Google has been quite successful at attracting some of the best talent on the planet VIA even more abstract communication than this :p {this first 10 digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com billboard immediately comes to mind :p

That said, with respect to the QR code - I'm fairly confident QR code is becoming more mainstream. I've been seeing QR stickers on the main entrance to businesses - and I'm not exactly in any of the tech savvy centers in North America :p

shaneomacmcgee (author)jefgat2009-12-27

 If it were more complicated, I could see your point, but when the "puzzle" is solved as easily as making a single fold in a piece of paper, I hardly expect anyone to become that frustrated. Especially for graphic designers, creative business cards like these can mean the difference between losing and gaining a client. And be honest, if you found a business card this creative, you'd show your friends.

DrCoolSanta (author)jefgat2009-12-27

I agree with him... useless idea...

Do you want the people who contact you to keep figuring out how to find your details?

And when does one not have a mobile phone to need to manually decode QR?

CoolKoon (author)2009-12-27

Good idea! At least for artists and creatives.......for IT guys and stuff it's not geeky enough however :P

About This Instructable




Bio: Bilal Ghalib is interested in doing things that surprise him and inspire others. Let's create a future we want to live in together.
More by lamedust:From Crap to Craft - How to Take Advantage of Disadvantage Robotic Music Player and Sequencer With LittleBits AKA Fruityloops IRLProsthetics Modification for Pain Relief of Pressure Points
Add instructable to: