Neue's vibrant reinvention of the Norwegian passport launches after six years in the making
Having won the competition to redesign Norway’s passport in 2014, with commendations from the Red Dot Awards and London’s Design Museum soon after, Oslo-based agency Neue’s proposition has finally launched in 2020, and in doing so, proven its ability to stand the test of time.
Briefed to clearly express Norwegian identity and push forward the passport as a design object while maintaining traditional values, Neue devised a concept that explores the sweeping landscapes of the Nordic nation. As a result, the passport’s pages are flooded with illustrations of landforms from all over the country, each carefully-crafted from a combination of dots and lines. “The challenge was to balance the recognition of the place with more abstract forms,” Neue’s Senior Designer Benjamin Stenmarck tells us, before revealing that “the lines that fill the shapes are inspired by old printing methods such as copper print and woodcuts.” Landscape imagery can quickly become cliché, but it’s through this illustration style that they instead feel engaging, and a considered fit for the document in question.
The illustrations capture the landscapes and climates that not only make up Norway’s scenery but are deeply rooted in its culture, having supplied its people with rich fisheries, clean hydroelectric power, endless recreation and critical historical events. Because of that, they are symbolic of the entire nation.
Beyond the beauty of the illustrations, it was essential for the passport to possess high functionality and universal design, and appear as a document of high value. Not to mention the initial purpose of the redesign, which was to increase security concerning Norwegian passports, ID cards and travel documents. To meet those demands, Neue’s typography and layouts are intentionally straightforward and systematic. “We looked for a geometric monolinear sans serif,” Stenmarck reveals, “a typeface with a distinct character, and preferably Norwegian,” leading them to Telefon from Birkeland-based foundry Monokrom. Elegantly typeset, it appears on the passport’s cover alongside a refined version of the country’s coat of arms, both finished in a delicate gold foil.
The passport is produced in an array of vibrant colours, with each fulfilling a distinct purpose. “The colour palette is primarily based on previous Norwegian security documents. For practical reasons, we have shuffled and adjusted them so that they harmonise and have a certain affiliation to each other,” Stenmarck explains. The white, for example, is used for a short-term emergency edition as “white covers will fade relatively quickly,” while the turquoise blue is solely for diplomats, government and the royal family. Upholding tradition, the red remains the primary national passport, albeit in a punchier, more enticing hue reminiscent of its predecessor from over 50 years ago.