New UK passport will “change into defining image of Britain’s new id” says main doc designer


How do you design a passport? How do you forestall forgeries? And why do all of them look the identical? Following the launch of our Brexit passport design competition we spoke to Julian Payne, inventive director on the world’s largest producer of passports and banknotes.

Payne heads a design crew of 22 individuals at De La Rue, a UK-based firm that manufactures over 12 million passports a yr. It additionally produces 40 per cent of all banknotes in circulation globally, together with the UK’s new plastic £5 notice.

De La Rue additionally designed the present UK passport – which was described as a “very British mess” by Guardian design critic Oliver Wainwright when it was unveiled two years in the past.

The present UK passport is designed and produced by De La Rue, the world’s largest producer of passports and banknotes

“Passports carry monumental emotional foreign money,” Payne responded diplomatically. “Governments should stroll a little bit of a tightrope to steadiness design and safety, and typically is not going to please everybody.”

De La Rue can be pitching to design and produce the brand new UK passport, which was put out to tender by the federal government final October – sarcastically, via the European Union’s electronic tendering journal.

“The time period of the present [passport] e book design and manufacture is a 10-year cycle and the tender’s timing with our exit from the European Union is sort of coincidental,” stated Payne.

British passport design makes national identity
Security measures in the present UK passport embrace particulars that change into seen beneath UV mild

“The passport is a singular image of nationwide id and a essential piece of nationwide infrastructure,” he added. “As such, there will probably be big expectation on the event of this design, which is prone to change into a defining image of Britain’s new id and relationship with the world.”

We spoke to Payne about his job and about the way forward for passport design, and requested him to provide entrants to our competitors some suggestions. Here is an edited transcript of the dialog:

Marcus Gala’s: Inform me about De La Rue.

Julian Payne: De La Rue is a British firm with a 200-year heritage. We design passports, banknotes and different safe paperwork resembling delivery certificates, tax stamps and model safety labels.

We are the world’s largest business banknote printer. We’ve got designed 40 per cent of the worlds’ banknote denominations presently in circulation.

We’re additionally the main business passport printer, designing and producing over 25 completely different passports (and passport parts, resembling paper) together with the present UK passport. We function services throughout the UK and around the globe, together with manufacturing areas in Malta, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

British passport design makes national identity
The brand new £5 polymer notice for the Royal Financial institution of Scotland was created by De La Rue and design studio O Home

Marcus Gala’s: You are the inventive director. What does your job contain?

Julian Payne: I joined the De La Rue design crew in September 2016. I’ve a background in product administration and product design and got here to De La Rue after working within the know-how and telecommunications trade.

I handle a inventive crew of 22 designers. The crew encompasses abilities together with substrate (paper and polymer) design, holography, and safety features resembling threads and specialist inks.

We design and manufacture merchandise that need to carry out within the area for lengthy durations of time and infrequently in some fairly uncommon environments.

We purpose to ship iconic designs which can be symbols of nationwide satisfaction. Which means the crew and I’ll have day by day interplay with prospects or De La Rue mission groups in addition to a good bit or journey.

British passport design makes national identity
De La Rue additionally designed and printed the £5 polymer banknote for Clydesdale Financial institution, certainly one of three banks authorised to print banknotes in Scotland

Marcus Gala’s: What tasks have you ever labored on lately?

Julian Payne: Within the final six months we launched designs for the new Bank of England polymer £5 note, the Royal Bank of Scotland polymer £5 notice in addition to new notes for Macedonia and the Solomon Islands.

We additionally lately gained the Rwanda passport contract and are working carefully with the shopper on a brand new design that embodies the nation’s values and retains their residents safe.

Marcus Gala’s: Which mission are you most happy with?

Julian Payne: I believe all the brand new UK polymer notes look nice. I additionally prefer it when De La Rue is ready to work in partnership with different designers. The Royal Financial institution of Scotland £5 notice was created with the design home O Street following a broad public session by the Royal Financial institution of Scotland crew.

For the Maldives we labored with a neighborhood watercolour artist, and transformed his sensible wash designs into wonderful line work – no imply feat – to create actually excellent and safe notes.

That final level is essential. We aren’t simply producing one thing that’s lovely – it must be each lovely and safe.

British passport design makes national identity
De La Rue collaborated with a neighborhood watercolour artist to design the Maldives banknotes

Marcus Gala’s: The latest UK passport bought a luke-warm reception from the design press. What’s your response to that?

Julian Payne: Passports carry monumental emotional foreign money. Governments should stroll a little bit of a tightrope to steadiness design and safety, and typically is not going to please everybody.

Our newest UK passport design introduced collectively quite a lot of exceptionally progressive components throughout the books’ development together with bio-data web page and print innovation round each seen and invisible workings. These have been world firsts.

Personally, I took one small measure of success when a Ugandan border agent first checked out my new passport a couple of months’ after the launch, was capable of establish it as a real doc and stated they actually preferred the brand new design. That advised me the product was doing its job, for me as a traveller and for HMPO [Her Majesty’s Passport Office].

Marcus Gala’s: How did the present UK passport design come about? What was the considering behind it?

Julian Payne: For many passport briefs the shopper units the theme. On this occasion, HMPO selected the theme of inventive Britain as a option to showcase artists, inventors and innovators previous and current.

My inventive crew then started to generate visible stimulus and idea designs for the shopper. This entails an excessive amount of analysis. The preliminary 4 topics have been chosen by HMPO have been the Penny Black, John Constable, Elisabeth Scott and London Underground based mostly on De La Rue idea designs – after which work started in earnest.

After deciding on a central idea, we then started to convey a way of narrative by the pages. Drafts and temper boards have been introduced with fortnightly critiques with the shopper as we entered an iterative design course of that might proceed all through the mission.

Assembly the problem of making certain each side of the mission works successfully collectively as a complete design calls for a steadiness of inventive aptitude and sensible utility.

For instance, to be able to be certain that the British invention of the jigsaw puzzle may work as a see-through function within the e book, and in addition register with UV and prolong into a whole evolving puzzle throughout two pages, we had to make use of a scientific and sophisticated layering of every component.

British passport design makes national identity
Safety particulars within the 2015 UK passport embrace a jigsaw-puzzle element that’s solely seen beneath UV mild

Marcus Gala’s: The UK authorities is already tendering for a brand new passport for after Brexit. What extra are you able to inform us about that?

Julian Payne: The time period of the present e book design and manufacture is a 10-year cycle and the tender’s timing with our exit from the European Union is sort of coincidental.

The passport is a singular image of nationwide id and a essential piece of nationwide infrastructure. As such, there will probably be big expectation on the event of this design, which is prone to change into a defining image of Britain’s new id and relationship with the world.

There was a number of hypothesis on the color of the following passport and now we have been exploring design ideas. The thrilling factor is that, inside worldwide tips, it’s extremely a lot again to the drafting board permitting our designers free rein to discover the most recent in design and safety know-how.

British passport design makes national identity
One other Maldives banknote, that includes art work by a neighborhood watercolourist

Marcus Gala’s: How do you go about designing a passport?

Julian Payne: In some methods it is similar to the business world: we work with the shopper to grasp the important thing questions they’re making an attempt to reply with a brand new design: who’re you designing for? What use circumstances and threats are you designing for? This tackles the function set we have to construct in.

By way of aesthetics, the shopper will typically have quite a lot of concepts. Some are very visually literate and can ship us visible stimuli they’ve developed. Others ask for a theme and we offer quite a lot of idea designs, usually three-four full-page spreads to stimulate the dialogue and agree the design rules beneath which the mission can progress.

Different instances inspiration thrusts its method into the method – a Center Jap buyer rolled out a carpet and stated “I would like this”. It was duly designed right into a e book, which is a private favorite for each its color selections and design.

A pattern in banknotes, which has not but totally translated to passports, has been to run a design competitors for the aesthetic components of a notice. That is an attention-grabbing and thrilling growth: it could possibly create some arresting designs that actually push our manufacturing methods, however end in wonderful trying merchandise (for instance the banknote collection we delivered for the Maldives which used watercolours as one such instance). If something, artist-driven design calls for extra work from specialists resembling De La Rue, to make sure operable, purposeful merchandise.

British passport design makes national identity
Element from the Afghan passport e book

Marcus Gala’s: Why do most passports look so related?

Julian Payne: There are a few methods to reply that query. The primary is regulation. Passport sizes and the layouts are set by the ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation]. This is the reason all passports are the identical form and dimension, and why a data-page structure in an Afghan e book is just about the identical as a UK or Qatari e book.

Some regional financial blocks additionally impose design guidelines to a lesser or higher diploma. The EU solely stipulates a standard cowl color and gold block, whereas the EAC (East African Group) requests widespread finish web page design, inside colors and watermark placement.

Ostensibly these calls for are pushed by border forces around the globe, confronted with a myriad of id paperwork, and the necessity to shortly assess the authenticity of a doc. The knocked again web page colors are in fact to accommodate visa stamps.

Lately there was a marked transfer away from the “conventional” inside of sample and guilloche work. The UK began this pattern with the 2009 “scenic Britain” e book designed by De La Rue. This adopted cross-page designs and a collage graphics fashion. Canada has adopted swimsuit, however the designs from Australia, Sweden, Switzerland and most lately Norway (which incidentally was a design competition), all supply new spins on the standard design throughout the e book.

By way of the outside, this nonetheless stays very conservative, regardless of there being no actual obstacle to the vary of canopy supplies, embossing or foil blocking one can use. Switzerland have embossed their cowl, Sweden bled off the gold block. I believe we’ll see extra design innovation on this space and we’re eager to prepared the ground right here.

In 2014 Neue Design Studio won a competition to design the Norwegian passport, which features illustrations of landscapes from different parts of the country

Marcus Gala’s: Do you suppose passports might be extra imaginative – both visually or technically? For instance why cannot the biometric knowledge be on the again cowl so you do not have to open your passport to scan it or present it?

Julian Payne: ICAO have lots to do with what one and one can not do with the product design. Biometric knowledge isn’t on the again cowl, as covers are unstitched. Putting it throughout the folio, protected by a holographic laminate or laser etched on a polycarbonate web page is much safer. The chip is ostensibly an NFC chip, however is sort of restricted in regard to what it may be used for. The rules are within the means of being up to date, so the concept of an e-visa on a chip (not caught within the e book) within the subsequent few years is conceivable.

Governments are additionally naturally conservative in the case of design. This isn’t as a result of they lack visible literacy, however their goals are to design a e book that’s consultant of a nation and by extension every citizen. Additionally it’s fairly ordinary for each design to iterate by a collection of committees, professional critiques in addition to log off by a minister, and in lots of nations, the top of state.

Marcus Gala’s: What in regards to the technical spec of a passport?

Julian Payne: A UK passport has to final 10 years. ICAO supply quite a lot of assessments that books need to cross. Some governments see these at least and set more durable necessities. De La Rue operates its personal R&D facility the place we develop supplies and may take a look at them for warmth, humidity, mild fastness, water (now we have a washer), in addition to assessments that simulate tearing, excessive bending and sitting (we even have a mechanical bottom).

As I discussed earlier the size and the structure of the information web page (the web page along with your photograph) are additionally set by ICAO. Past this there may be freedom to function. The variety of pages is as much as a authorities, 32 is the accepted customary, however now we have made 25-, 68-, and 72-page books in addition to five-page “emergency journey paperwork” for those who lose their passport when partying too arduous in Magaluf.

British passport design makes national identity
The brand new Central Financial institution of Seychelles notes function amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds and bugs

Marcus Gala’s: Presumably forgeries get extra refined yearly. What sort of safety measures do passports comprise as of late? How would possibly these enhance in future?

Julian Payne: Options are usually graded for public recognition (you and me), for presidency officers (eg border drive or police), or for forensic authentication. Having a banknote heritage with design abilities in paper, plastics, holography and print means De La Rue can have a look at the passport e book in all dimensions.

Governments set their very own necessities when it comes to safety features from watermarks to print options resembling UV and microtext, in addition to the usage of holography. It’s the bio-data web page that pulls essentially the most anti-counterfeit measures. Subsequently the variety of options and the way the pages are stitched into the e book are key.

We work carefully with nationwide fraud models to maintain updated with the most recent threats and supply our options or co-develop approaches to them. For the present UK e book the adoption of a steady bio-data web page (the rear endpaper) is one instance, in addition to superior watermarking for anti-tamper are examples of this sort of collaboration.

It’s a design cliché, however we attempt to create “easy complexity”. The best function is one that’s immediately recognisable by you and me, however is exceptionally troublesome to make, because of this cylinder-made watermarks nonetheless type a core a part of banknote and passport safety over 100 years after their invention. We put money into our personal personal supplies R&D in addition to working with universities and companions to create new safe gadgets and options.

Marcus Gala’s: What would possibly the passport of the longer term appear like? Will it all the time be a book-type doc?

Julian Payne: A passport is about enabling journey. I believe the variety of journey paperwork will proliferate. The Irish lately launched a passport card, which supplies their residents entry to the EU without having to take the e book. Different EU nations use their nationwide ID playing cards to journey (the East African Group do the identical). In these financial blocs, the concept of utilizing a cellular gadget to journey within the subsequent 10-20 years is conceivable, however the requirements round cellular gadget safety, authentication and private knowledge privateness should be solved, and that won’t be straightforward.

Then there’s the remainder of the world. Passports will stay related till the final nation strikes to a brand new type issue. And that could be a sluggish course of. While the UK and EU have had e-passports for the reason that mid-2000s, there are nonetheless round 80 nations that don’t. Many nations nonetheless stamp a passport upon entry and exit.

That stated, books might get thinner as extra knowledge, resembling visas or entry and exit knowledge are saved and accessed on the e book chip. There may be not, nonetheless fairly the identical emotional resonance when flicking again by the stamped and visa-ed pages of a well-worn e book.

Dezeen launches Brexit Passport Design Competition
On 14 February, Dezeen launched an unofficial competition to design a passport that will present a positive vision of the post-Brexit UK to the world

Marcus Gala’s: What do you consider our Brexit passport design competitors?

Julian Payne: I believe this sort of competitors will be actually thought-provoking. We work with artwork faculties resembling Winchester Faculty of Artwork for a similar purpose. It brings freshness, experimentation and problem. Designers exterior of 1 area of experience will have a look at the issue from an entirely completely different perspective. In our case at De La Rue, even when the ideas designed are inconceivable to fabricate or we suspect are troublesome to include right into a safe design, there may be all the time one thing that one can use, undertake and experiment with.

Marcus Gala’s: What recommendation would you give individuals getting into the competitors?

Julian Payne: Passport design is an advanced enterprise, even setting apart the necessity to think about complicated safety features. For the following British passport, the design must seize our nationwide id the way in which we at the moment are, but in addition sign one thing about our future, the way in which we’re in search of to reposition ourselves on this planet.

I might say to anybody getting into to bear that in thoughts. The passport is a strong image and as a nation, no matter your views on Brexit, we’re about to embark on a brand new chapter in our historical past – you’ll want to search to seize and replicate that. I look ahead to seeing the entries.

Dezeen’s Brexit passport design competitors is free to enter and has a prime prize of £1,000. Cut-off date is 24 March 2017. Extra particulars at