British online magazine Dezeen has launched a competition to design a passport for the UK after Brexit, the winner of which will receive a £1000 prize. The competition is purely theoretical in nature, but draws on the decision taken by the UK last year to part ways with the EU, leaving many wondering what a Britain removed from its European counterparts will look like. The passport will represent a physical manifestation of a changed Britain, and Dezeen has stated that they are “looking for designs that present a positive vision of the post-Brexit UK to the world, and that represents all its citizens.”
2016 is over, but its effects are only beginning to be felt. Brexit perhaps marked the start of a worldwide period of intense political and social upheaval, creating a deeply divided Britain and paving the way for a surprising victory in the US presidential elections. Dezeen, far from denying the current state of the nation, has instead decided to find a design opportunity within the fracas and to exploit this by encouraging creativity. Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs says, “The EU referendum vote divided the country, with the majority of creatives voting to remain in the EU. Whether we like it or not, Brexit is going to happen. So it’s time to start thinking about what image the UK wants to project and trying to create a positive vision for the future. A new passport could help achieve that.”
The passport will be judged by a distinguished panel, including Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum in London, Oliver Wainwright, architecture and design critic for The Guardian, Anita Taylor, dean of Bath School of Art and Design, and Marcus Fairs, founder of Dezeen. The competition is completely open, with no professional or geographic limitations and is free of charge, with the submission taking the form of a full size physical mock up to be sent to the Dezeen offices in London, and will be judged against conceptual strength, execution, and practicality.
Criticisms have been made of the current UK passport, which was introduced 7 months before the Brexit referendum and is apparently one of the most “secure” in the world, for presenting an incoherent image of Britain, leaning on historical figures such as Shakespeare to lend it credibility while being visually chaotic. A challenge is often presented while designing official documents and symbols, ones that are intended to represent both the state and perhaps a nation’s cultural identity. In 2016, New Zealand ran a design competition to reimagine the country’s flag which was flatly rejected by the public in the end, forcing them to stick with the existing flag, an embarrassment that cost the country a rumoured NZ$26m.
Dezeen this week released 5 examples of what they deem to be well-designed passports as inspiration to competition entrants. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the design kings of Scandinavia have produced two on the list, with Norway’s contemporary design representing the country fully by having UV spreads that transform to produce replicas of the Northern Lights, while Finland’s passport acts as a flipbook with the image of a running elk appears across its pages. A newer version will replace the elk with a swan. Japan’s little book is quintessentially Japanese and features ancient stamps and artisanal prints. Hungary’s passport has sheet music of the national anthem that appears under UV light and Switzerland’s colorful spreads imply a whimsy that contrasts with the stoic cross seen on the Swiss flag.
The competition closes on Friday, March 24th, and the winner will be announced on the Dezeen website on April 11. More information on how to enter can be found here.