Scholz & Friends: Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe’s Anti-Look

A warning sign on a smartphone warning the user to stop gawking when pointed at the QR code on an ambulance

Scholz & Friends: Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe’s Anti-Look

A life-saving QR code design

In Germany, an ambulance is expected to arrive within eight minutes of an emergency call. But often, emergency response is delayed.

With the omnipresence of smartphones, onlookers have become a huge issue. “Civilian paparazzi” take photos of incidents and impede life-saving rescue operations. Even though this became a criminal offense in January 2021 in Germany, action is rarely taken against onlookers.

Scholz & Friends worked with Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe to develop an innovative digital pattern that functions like a camouflaged QR code – effectively tricking smartphone cameras.

When an onlooker tried to capture a rescue operation with their smartphone, a message popped up on the display, addressing the smartphone users’ unlawful photography and educating them about how to support rather than impede an accident scene.

Rather than targeting the public about the consequences of onlooking via awareness campaigns, onlookers were instead confronted with their misconduct right in the moment of their wrongdoing.

Today, the design is in use across Germany at Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe, one of Germany's largest rescue organisations with around 30,000 employees and 40,000 volunteers, as well as 750,000 rescue missions per year. The number of paramedic job applications at Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe doubled in the months following the campaign and the innovative design could soon be extended to other emergency organisations throughout Europe.

Outside of the healthcare sector, media coverage of the live-saving design raised international attention and awareness about the dangers of gawking. Newspapers and television shows around the world began to report on the idea, and their stories were shared by thousands of social media users. As a result, 22% of Germans said they had heard of the idea after four months of the campaign launching and 40% of people consider the idea “very helpful.”