Home / Barcode Basics / 2D 101 / Barcode Symbologies

Barcode Symbologies

Barcode symbologies (also commonly called barcodes) are universally recognized code languages that are standardized by the International Organization for Standards (ISO) so there is a consistent definition of what the bars and spaces mean.

Industry trade associations such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute), AIAG (Automotive Industry Action Group), and HIBC (Health Industry Barcode Council) regulate certain symbologies, which typically fall into two categories: linear and 2D.

ean barcode

A linear barcode is one-dimensional and consists of a sequence of vertical black bars and white spaces.

Linear barcodes

Linear barcodes are one-dimensional barcodes that contain a sequence of vertical black bars and white spaces that define a set of numbers or letters. Because of their limited storage space, these barcodes are used to retrieve information stored in a database.

There are several types of linear barcodes for use in a variety of industries, including omnidirectional ones that work best in retail point of sale applications.

See a list of common linear barcode symbologies.

2D barcodes

qr code

A QR code is a popular type of 2D barcode.

2D (two-dimensional) barcodes consist of patterned blocks, circles, and squares that resemble the no-reception static on a TV. These barcodes are often physically smaller in size than linear barcodes, but they contain hundreds of characters of data. Because of their larger storage capacity, 2D barcodes do not require databases.

A popular type of 2D barcode is a QR code, which is widely used to market products, events, and services.

See a list of other common 2D barcode symbologies.

Which barcode should you use?

Sometimes you don’t have a choice about which barcode (symbology) to apply because of regulations or standards in your industry. For applications not bound by industry requirements, you can choose which barcode to use.

To determine which symbology works best for your company and environment, visit Linear vs. 2D Barcodes – Which is Right for You? For answers to frequently asked barcoding questions, visit the System ID Barcode FAQs.

The following two tabs change content below.

Nicole Holcomb

Product Manager at System ID
Nicole Holcomb literally grew up around labels and printing. Putting that lifetime of knowledge to good use, Nicole helps customers solve the labeling needs of virtually any application in her role as Product Manager for Labels & Supplies at System ID. This creative problem solver unleashes her artistic side by creating customized clipboards and frames for her small craft business (while also daydreaming about being British, an obsession she’s had since her youth!).