New E-Passport Is Patriotic, High-Tech and Ugly

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

The NY Times reviews the new U.S. e-passport today (if you didn't want one, apparently you're too late). It mostly focuses on how ugly the pastiche of American iconography is, but it mentions the new embedded RFID chip holding all of your biographical info and "a digital image of the passport photograph, which will facilitate the use of face recognition technology at ports-of-entry," according to the State Department's website.


While the gold bars and circle marking your passport as a magical "e-passport" are on the front cover, the chip is embedded somewhere on the back page. To alleviate fears of skimming the chip's info, it only works within four inches of a reader—the cover contains shielding material—and the passports use Basic Access Control, which requires a printed PIN to read the chip, which seems like a pretty good idea.

That said, no one can skim my plain paper passport, which is thankfully good for another seven years.

Stars and Stripes, Wrapped in the Same Old Blue [NYT]
The U.S. Electronic Passport [State Department]



Design IS subjective. Absolutely. But speaking as one who makes his living as a designer (an American one, by the by), I'd have to say that the new passport doesn't look as though it was designed by a professional. Or, more likely, the professional involved allowed the design to be dictated by the non-designers from within the bureacracy - whether voluntarily or not (I mean, ummm.....oh, never mind).

Good design - of functional items, at least - communicates. It doesn't smack you upside the head. Throwing absolutely every symbol/image together on one canvas...minimizing white self-respecting designer worth their salt would do this of their own accord.

There's patriotism...and there's jingoism. And patriotism is to jingoism as design is to this.................document.

Oh, and I love Canadians. You and large. :-)