Make a Flashy Merchandise Box with LEDs, an Electroluminescent Sheet, and a QR Code

Since Google came up short on a search for combining an electroluminescent sheet with a QR code (for scanning in the dark), I decided to post some pictures of the merchandise box I made for my band.

I can’t imagine that I’m the first person to put QR codes and EL sheets together, but since they go so well I’ve decided to spread the word. (I’ve blurred the band name, because this post is a promotion of the technology and not the music.)

This is the box that we take to all our gigs, offering CDs, stickers, and our mailing list to fans. It uses some LEDs to add a little life to the display. Hit the jump for some animation and detail shots.

Most small clubs that feature live music are dark inside, to give a spotlight to the band. So, it pays to light up anything else that you want your fans to notice. I got these twinkling LEDs by accident — I wanted solid white, but the store only sold solid yellow and twinkling white — yet it turned out for the best.

The QR code links to the band website, and scans very easily (it’s about 3″×3″). It’s far better for your fans than having them rely on their memory to Google your website the following day.

For any merchandise box, it helps to start with something distinctive. Something more sturdy than a cardboard box or crate is necessary, since it will take a lot of abuse as it gets dragged from show to show. In this instance, I’m using a piece of Army surplus gear.

The backstory for this type of case is fairly interesting. During the cold war, American tanks had a very advanced scope attached to them. To prevent the scope from falling into the wrong hands, one of these cases was apparently put inside every tank; if the crew had to abandon the vehicle, the case converted into a backpack that would be used to transport the scope off the battlefield.

It’s also a perfect fit for 2 rows of CD racks.

All the lighting is powered by 4×AA batteries in a case with a switch on it — this came with one set of the LED string lights. Jammed into the corner is the inverter that powers the EL sheet. I think it was supposed to work from 12V, but it works from 6V just fine. As you can see, everything is just taped into place with duct tape and/or gorilla tape. I did this because I thought that the layout would be only temporary and planned to change it later… but after 18 months (and counting) it’s turned out to be more than satisfactory in appearance and durability. Not counting the EL sheet, It’s been to at least 40 shows like this!

The string LEDs are held in place with a large-toothed comb that I got from the beauty aisle of the grocery store. I just laid each LED on the string into a gap in the teeth of the comb, taped it down, then taped the comb into the top of the case. In the dark, nobody can see how ugly the tape job is.

We’ve used the honor system to sell CDs, and it seems to work pretty well. The can is a Pringles can covered in duct tape, with a slot cut out of the lid. I’ve seen fans open up the can, but only to make change for themselves. People who come to shows are generally good about supporting musicians, I guess.

To generate the code image, I used this online QR generator.

The QR code is printed on a sheet of transparency “paper”. If you go to an office supply store, this will cost you $50 for a box of 50 sheets. Rather than do that, just go to a copy center and buy a few sheets of transparency for $1 each.

Before you print out the code, flip/mirror the QR image — apparently they have a front and a back! This allows you to keep the printed side on the inside, next to the EL sheet — preventing the ink from getting worn off.

Happy gigging!