Ashee Sharma

The making of the 'Bharat QR' logo: A design story

As citizens and netizens discuss the recently launched Bharat QR Code, we spoke to Lulu Raghavan of Landor about how her team created the right logo for it.

Bharat QR code, a big idea and another small step towards realising the government's vision of a less-cash Indian society was launched on Monday.

Bharat QR is a common platform for QR code based payments across banks and card network operators. It is the result of collaboration between four payment networks operating in India - National Payments Corporation of India, Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.

The making of the 'Bharat QR' logo: A design story
While Quick Response Codes are no novelty, and mobile wallet brands such as Paytm and Freecharge have been providing this payment option for some time now, Bharat QR code is a step ahead. This is mainly because it will allow interoperability between different card network operators (RuPay, Visa, Mastercard and American Express) and banks (15 on board so far).

Much like wallets, it spares customers and merchants the hassle and cost of a card swipe, allowing them to make payments using mobile phones. All that a merchant has to worry about is having a Bharat QR code.

However, keeping the merits of this new digital payment technology aside, in this article we explore how Lulu Raghavan and her team at Landor went about creating an identity for it.

A look at the logo...

The making of the 'Bharat QR' logo: A design story
Talking about the brief, Raghavan, managing director at Landor Associates shares, "The challenge for us was to create something simple and easily recognizable. At the same time, we had to take care that the design can be easily replicated at the Point of Sale (PoS)."
The making of the 'Bharat QR' logo: A design story
Because this is an initiative at the national level, and also a collaborative effort, the Indian tricolour was used with a clean and bold font to communicate the name in a straightforward manner.
The making of the 'Bharat QR' logo: A design story
"The Bharat QR code is not just for cities or educated people. It must be recognized and understood by everyone alike. While we made sure it's not elitist, it doesn't even come across as the lowest common denominator. It is basically a design that everyone can relate to," adds Raghavan.
The making of the 'Bharat QR' logo: A design story
The Quick Response code - the icon and also the alphabets Q and R, had the potential to lend themselves to the creative, where Q would be the square (a reference point for the actual code) and R denoted using the Rupee symbol, ₹ which is ubiquitous.

"The Q and the Rupee (₹) coming together tell a nice, yet intriguing," she says.

In an earlier interaction with afaqs! about how the advent of smartphones and apps had changed the logo design brief, Raghavan told us that even as agencies have to keep digital in mind, the basics haven't changed.

Maintaining the stance, she states, "While the meaning that had to be conveyed didn't change, we did look at Bharat QR from a mobile-first perspective. 'How the logo/icon appears on the mobile screen' was our criterion for choosing it. Just the way a design is judged based on how it looks on a T-shirt or with embroidery for a fashion brand, here the key touch points were mobile phones (primary) and the PoS."

But what does a mobile-first approach entail? According to Raghavan, given the restriction on size, proportion is critical when designing for the mobile platform. The typeface should also be clear.

Commenting on how different it was to work on a project such as this, where different parties came together to create a low-cost and scalable system keeping consumers first, vis-à-vis working on conventional brands, she states, "Unlike most cases when you are either rebranding/bringing about a reconsideration for brands, this is something new and path-breaking. Moreover, when so many people are involved, you never know where the design will end up. In this case we are happy and proud that what was given a go-ahead was what we very strongly believed in. It's a bold identity for a bold product idea."

What others have to say...

The making of the 'Bharat QR' logo: A design story
The making of the 'Bharat QR' logo: A design story
According to Shekhar Badve, founder-director (marketing and strategy), Lokusdesign, the Bharat QR logo is well designed. He particularly appreciates the semblance to the rupee icon.

"It has the stature of being a Government of India initiative with a hint of modernity. The type used is straight forward, though it could have been more modern to keep up with the times. But overall, a good and balanced unit." he notes.

While Bhupal Ramnathkar, founder - Umbrella Design, finds the design "clean", he thinks it is two logos - the square (Q) and the Rupee symbol (₹), in one.

Given that Bharat QR is already written above the creative, and that the slash at the right bottom of the Q looks somewhat like the Rupee symbol, the ₹ could have been integrated in the Q itself. Right now, it's redundant.

"Simpler logos are always better and stronger. For instance, the red plus of Red Cross Society. Viewed on the mobile screen, this logo becomes small as compared to other icons," he says.

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