open passport

3 Passport Epiphanies

Form and Function

A passport is an objet d’art that we experience through sight, sound and touch — from the raised edge of the intaglio print to the rustle of its deeply luxurious paper. A passport contains both layered security features and layers of experiential detail. It is a puzzle of microtexts and hidden features that must be explored with one’s nose pressed to the page, peered at through a magnifying glass, or read under the covers by light of an ultraviolet flashlight.

With their UV luminescence, passports cross that divide between government documents and psychedelia. Placed in the hands of an expert, a passport becomes the central prop of a performance, held up to the light to activate a see-through feature or rotated to animate a kinetic hologram. A passport is both an iconic representation of exploration and worthy of exploration; it embodies the perfect balance of form and function.

Art

It is also a fine example of functional art — aesthetic objects that serve a utilitarian purpose — being both beautiful and functional. But unlike high fashion, ceramics or furniture, the aesthetic qualities of a passport are never peripheral to, or in competition with, its functionality. While an aesthetically valuable dress, teapot or chair may be nearly impossible to wear, pour from or sit on, the aesthetic features of a passport are an essential component of its security design and at the core of its utility. A passport provides a reliable means of verifying a person’s nationality, associated rights and individual identity because it is so difficult to counterfeit or alter. Its integrity and trustworthiness are protected by the complexity of the techniques and materials used in its manufacture and personalization. These are further protected by regular updates to the design, as well as periodic reissuance. Its integrity relies on the same principles that give haute couture its allure.

Experience Design

Like haute couture, passports are made from high-end, specialist materials using techniques only possessed by a select group of design and production houses. Both passports and haute couture impart status on the bearer because of their exclusivity, traceability and difficulty to replicate — and also their impermanence. Both lose their aesthetic, utilitarian or social power through counterfeiting and fraud, where the erosion of quality and detail destroys the artwork’s functionality, beauty, the reputation of the original issuer and the artwork’s ability to provide sublime user experiences.

Your passport might not be what you were planning to read on holiday this year or to read in bed this evening, but with a UV light and magnifying glass, a passport can open up an entire gallery of interactive exhibits. So, get it out of the drawer and call the kids in. And when you renew your passport (if your government lets you) keep the old one — not for the visa stamps but for your home micro-gallery.

Read more about how HID designs unique passports.

Tom Grover is a bid writer for HID’s citizen identity business, where he works with subject matter experts to develop complainant, customer-focused tender responses that communicate our brand and the effectiveness of our solutions. Tom is a master writer with more than 10 years of experience working as a bid writer, ghostwriter, academic tutor and editor.

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