Art and Design

Hitman Hits the Street: Cool Portrait Created Out of 10,000 Barcodes

When Square Enix launched the new Hitman HD Trilogy box set, they thought, who better to sell it than Agent 47 himself? Still, he did need a little help from a crafty street artist and some smartphones.

posted on 02/11/2013
Yohani Kamarudin
Scribol Staff

Scanning a barcode on the Hitman poster
Image: Kyle Mortensen and Scott Blake

There’s a hitman on the streets, and there’s a good chance you might run into him. The assassin in question is Agent 47, the ice-cold clone killer from the massively successful Hitman video game series – and the subject of a marketing-meets-street art project by barcode artist Scott Blake.

Hitman on the street
Image: Kyle Mortensen and Scott Blake

The project in question is a giant mosaic poster of Agent 47 (or, as he’s more commonly known, 47) made entirely out of barcodes. It was commissioned for the January 29 launch of the Hitman HD Trilogy, a box set that includes Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts, Hitman: Blood Money and a collectible Hitman art book.

Hitman barcode poster
Image: Kyle Mortensen and Scott Blake

Located at 699 Third Street, San Francisco, the poster allows passersby to interact with it using their smartphones. By scanning individual barcodes, smartphone users can find out where to buy the game and locate secret quick response (QR) codes that unlock special content – like a video trailer and select images from the art book.

Closeup of barcodes in Hitman poster
Image: Kyle Mortensen and Scott Blake

Scott Blake, who created the mosaic, is known for his barcode portraits of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee and Elvis Presley. And as with the Hitman campaign, those portraits also used barcodes so that smartphone users would interact with them. For the nine-foot by 12-foot poster of Agent 47, Blake used around 10,000 UPC barcodes from the trilogy box, putting the whole thing together on Photoshop. The 1.35-gigapixel creation took 26 hours to complete!

Putting up the Hitman barcode poster
Image: Kyle Mortensen and Scott Blake

“By offsetting the barcode tiles I created a simple ‘V’ shape pattern centered on his face to add an extra dimension to the portrait,” says Blake. The result is effective, as your eyes can’t help but be drawn to Agent 47’s glowering gaze in the center of the mosaic. Even those with no knowledge of the games are likely to appreciate the unusual piece.

Almost finished putting up the Hitman barcode poster
Image: Kyle Mortensen and Scott Blake

Inviting smartphone users to scan barcodes for information is not a new marketing technique by any means, but by incorporating the QR codes into the artwork, the Hitman mosaic adds an extra dimension to the experience. Of course, there are challenges when working with barcodes. For one, they need to be in near-perfect condition to be scanned. This means no bumps or scratches, which is quite tricky for an outdoor poster subjected to the elements and normal wear and tear.

Hitman street poster
Image: Kyle Mortensen and Scott Blake

Printing the poster so the barcodes worked also required a higher resolution than the normal 72 dots per inch (DPI) used for most outdoor advertising. Instead, the agency printed the ad at 150 DPI. Of course, how quickly the smartphones were able to scan the QRs also depended on what apps people were using. But so far, all apps tested have worked with the mosaic – albeit some faster than others.

Hitman barcode poster street art
Image: Kyle Mortensen and Scott Blake

The Hitman mosaic has been received positively by users. And perhaps the combination of street art, technology and digital interactivity will become more popular, allowing companies to communicate directly with consumers in a fun and futuristic way. As smartphone technology progresses, who knows what applications might be possible in the future?

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Yohani Kamarudin
Scribol Staff