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Vertical Barcodes: Everything You Need to Know in 2024

3 minutes

In this article we will explore exactly what vertical barcodes are along with their advantages and disadvantages. We will also share various applications with some real world examples. Read on to learn more.

vertical barcode

What is a Vertical Barcode?

A vertical barcode is a barcode oriented in a vertical direction. Instead of reading from left to right, it reads from top to bottom or vice versa. It encodes data in its varying widths and spacings of bars. These barcodes are commonly found on items like airline boarding passes, event tickets, and certain product packaging due to space or design considerations.

Example: One prominent example of a vertical barcode can be seen on airline boarding passes. Imagine a vertical barcode that is segmented into 10 distinct sections, each representing a specific piece of information:

  • Airline Code: 001 (e.g., "001" might represent American Airlines)
  • Flight Number: 2345
  • Date of Flight: 1023 (October 23rd)
  • Seat Number: 025A
  • Passenger Code: 67890 (Unique ID for the passenger)
  • Gate Number: 012
  • Boarding Group: 3
  • Zone: 2
  • Ticket Class: 001 (e.g., "001" might represent Economy Class)
  • Check Digit: 7 (For verification purposes)

When scanned, the vertical barcode will translate these numbers. This helps airport staff retrieve the necessary details about the flight and the passenger.

barcode vertical

Structure and Design of Vertical Barcodes

Below is a detailed breakdown of the structure and design of vertical barcodes:


Vertical barcodes are oriented from top to bottom or vice versa, in contrast to the left-to-right orientation of horizontal barcodes.

Bars and Spaces:

Just like horizontal barcodes, vertical ones consist of bars (lines) and spaces that vary in width. These varying widths are used to represent data. Each combination of bars and spaces corresponds to specific numbers or characters.

Quiet Zone:

All barcodes, including vertical ones, need a "quiet zone" – a clear, unmarked space before and after the barcode. This helps scanners recognize the beginning and end of a barcode. In vertical barcodes, this quiet zone will be present at the top and bottom.

Check Digit:

Many barcodes include a check digit. For example, if a barcode reads "123456", the check digit might be "7" if calculated based on the preceding numbers. This check digit helps ensure the accuracy and validity of the barcode. In vertical barcodes, this would be found at the end of the sequence (at the bottom). So, the entire barcode with the check digit might read "1234567".

Human-Readable Numbers:

Often, below or adjacent to a barcode, you'll find human-readable numbers. Let's say there's a barcode with the encoded data "482910". Below it, you might find the same number, "482910", printed out so that a human can easily read and verify the barcode's information. In vertical barcodes, these can be placed horizontally at the base or can be rotated to align with the barcode’s orientation.


The term "symbology" refers to the encoding used in a barcode. There are many barcode symbologies, such as Code 128, UPC, and EAN. Not all symbologies may be suitable for vertical orientation, but many can be adapted to this format.

Size and Dimensions:

The dimensions of a vertical barcode will depend on the specific requirements of the product or application. For instance, if you're labeling small products, the barcode might be 1 inch in height and 0.5 inches in width. However, for larger products or shipping containers, the barcode might be 3 inches in height and 2 inches in width. It's crucial to ensure that the barcode is large enough to be read by scanners but also fits well within the designated space.

Color and Contrast:

The success of barcode scanning largely depends on the contrast between the bars and spaces. Typically, black bars on a white background work best. However, other color combinations can be used for vertical barcodes, as long as there's sufficient contrast for scanners to read.

Printing Considerations:

When printing vertical barcodes, it's vital to ensure high-resolution printing to maintain the integrity and readability of the barcode. Poor quality printing can lead to scanning issues.

Advantages of Vertical Barcodes

Below are some of the advantages of vertical barcodes:

Flexibility in Design: 

Vertical barcodes seamlessly integrate into product designs, particularly for items with limited horizontal but ample vertical space.

Optimal Scanning: 

Vertical barcodes are especially efficient in systems where items move or are processed vertically, such as certain conveyor setups.

Uniqueness & Engagement: 

Their distinctive orientation can capture consumer attention on store shelves and enhance interaction, differentiating products from competitors.

Space Utilization & Adaptability: 

They're well-suited for cylindrical or rounded products and can optimize space on tall items, ensuring readability without distortion.

Streamlined Operations: 

In certain industrial or logistical settings, vertical barcodes can align better with processing methods, improving workflow efficiency.

Disadvantages of Vertical Barcodes

While vertical barcodes offer several advantages in specific scenarios, they also come with some disadvantages:

Scanner Limitations:

Many traditional barcode scanners are optimized for horizontal barcodes. Vertical barcodes might require specialized or adjustable scanners, which can be more expensive or less commonly available.

Orientation Confusion:

Workers accustomed to horizontal barcodes might overlook or misalign scans on vertical ones, leading to reading errors or inefficient scanning practices.

Limited Data:

Due to their orientation, vertical barcodes might sometimes offer less space than horizontal ones, potentially limiting the amount of data they can represent.

Wear and Tear:

In certain scenarios, vertical barcodes, especially those on the edges of items, can be more susceptible to wear, damage, or fading due to their position.

vertical bar code

Examples of Vertical Barcodes

Here are some real-world applications where you might encounter vertical barcodes:

Space Management: 

In situations where product packaging or labels are constrained in horizontal space, vertical barcodes come to the rescue. Items like bookmarks, concert tickets, or even some product tags might favor a vertical orientation to maximize the use of available space.

Example: Many bookmarks used for promotional purposes, like those from a local bookstore advertising a new release, might incorporate a vertical barcode. Scanning this barcode at the counter could offer a discount or additional information about the book being promoted.


Sometimes, the choice of a vertical barcode may be driven by design preferences. For products or packaging aiming for a unique look, a vertical barcode might provide that desired distinctive touch.

Example: A luxury perfume brand releases a limited-edition bottle with a minimalist design. To maintain the sleek look yet still provide essential product information, they use a vertical barcode, seamlessly blending it with the bottle's elongated form.

Specialized Equipment: 

Certain industries or pieces of equipment may find it easier to scan items with a vertical orientation, especially if the items move vertically during the scanning process.

Example: In a car manufacturing plant, as car parts move vertically on an assembly line, scanners are positioned to read vertical barcodes on each part. This ensures the correct components are being used and aids in tracking the assembly process.

Event Access Control: 

Many event wristbands or badges incorporate vertical barcodes for attendees. These barcodes can quickly verify entry or access levels at different zones or activities during an event.

Example: At a major music festival, attendees receive wristbands with vertical barcodes. When entering exclusive zones or VIP areas, these barcodes are scanned to verify the attendee's access level, ensuring smooth crowd management.

Healthcare Identification: 

Patient wristbands in hospitals often use vertical barcodes. These barcodes can store essential patient information and ensure the correct procedures, medications, or tests are administered.

Example: In a regional hospital, patients are given wristbands with vertical barcodes upon admission. These barcodes, when scanned, provide medical professionals with immediate access to the patient's medical history, allergies, and current treatments, ensuring personalized and safe care.

Retail Shelf Labeling: 

In stores, vertical barcodes on shelf-edge labels can efficiently provide inventory and pricing details, making it easier for staff to manage stock or for handheld scanning devices to read.

Example: In a supermarket, shelf-edge labels with vertical barcodes provide details on product promotions. Staff can scan these barcodes using handheld devices to quickly update stock levels or verify prices during inventory checks.

Public Transport: 

Certain transport tickets or cards, especially those used for metro or rail services, may feature vertical barcodes to streamline passenger movement and validation.

Example: In a city's metro system, single-use paper tickets incorporate vertical barcodes. Riders scan these tickets at entry and exit points, with the barcode helping to calculate the journey's cost and deducting it from the ticket's value.

We hope our article has now left you with a better understanding of vertical barcodes, their key applications, and their advantages and disadvantages in the world today.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our article on unscannable barcodes or our article on unique device identifier barcodes.

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