We’re not sure exactly how they work. We don’t know why they look the way they do. We’re not aware of who invented them or how. But one thing is for certain: barcodes are easily the ugliest aspect of product packaging. Those little black-and-white lines appear like a curse on what would ordinarily be a work of art in the packaging world. We search for hours in the self-checkout line for that little aggravating mark. So why has no one attempted to redesign this area of disdain? Most large companies are worried that if a barcode does not scan then retailers may drop their product entirely. But a trend has started to emerge among smaller food companies: vanity barcodes. Vanity barcodes are customized barcodes that bring a little personality, and even humor, into product packaging. Some aspects of the typical barcode design cannot be changed, like the coloring or the size, but graphic artists have found ways to design around these basic principles and bring beauty to a once ignored area of design. So cheers to functional art. Hopefully one day these vanity barcodes will be common and not just for daring companies.