Swiss passport in a new design – design diary

Switzerland introduces a new passport for citizens. The passport meets the latest standards for identity documents and contains “unique design elements inspired by the Swiss landscape”, as the Federal Police Office (Fedpol) said during the presentation.

The design of the Swiss passport is 16 years old. In connection with the introduction of biometric data, the passport was last adapted to the security standards of the time in 2006. The revision that has now been carried out takes place against the background of further increased security standards.

The Swiss passport still has a red cover. Instead of crosses, however, mountain ranges are now depicted on the cover – in the form of blind embossing, which creates a haptic effect. A canton is shown on each page used for visa stamps. As before, the biometric data is stored on the microchip located in the passport cover.

Excerpt from the press release

The new passport family combines security, functionality and aesthetics. It is based on the latest technologies for security features in ID documents. These security features, visible both to the naked eye and under UV light, make the Swiss passport a secure and unique document. The design of the new passport illustrates the characteristics of Switzerland as a country that is both close to its homeland and open to the world. Water is a recurring element that flows through all 26 cantons, from the peaks of the Alps to the valleys. The Gotthard massif forms the center with Pizzo Rotondo. It houses the sources of the largest Swiss rivers that stretch abroad, thus combining the main themes of the design: mountains and water.

The first inside page shows Pizzo Rotondo, the highest mountain in the Gotthard massif. According to the federal authorities, Pizzo Rotondo was chosen because it is the highest point in the Gotthard massif. The Gotthard massif was chosen as it is home to the source of the largest Swiss rivers, thus combining both the main design themes of mountains and water.

The canton subjects were taken from the previous passport and adapted to the current design. The canton subjects are still available, but are now only visible under ultraviolet light.

New typo

The designations “Schweizer Pass” (German), “Passeport suisse” (French), “Passaporto svizzero” (Italian), “Passaport svizzer” (Romance) and “Swiss passport” (English) shown on the front cover are no longer available in Arial set. The system font Arial has long been part of the corporate design of the Swiss federal administration for practical reasons, as they say.

Swiss passport - design / typo front - before and after, image source: Swiss Federal Police Office (Fedpol), image montage: dt
Swiss passport – design / typo front – before and after, image source: Swiss Federal Police Office (Fedpol), image montage: dt

Next to Arial is Fruity the house font of the Swiss federal administration. According to the Federal Administration, both typefaces conform to the federal government’s design principles, being “classically timeless, understated and clear”. However, the designations on the front of the new passport are neither inside Arialstill in Fruity typeface, easily recognizable by i-minuscule, which has a left-sided serif – a feature that especially typefaces designed for machine readability have, including OCR-B designed by Swiss typographer Adrian Frutiger.

The OCR-B character set has established itself worldwide as the standard for marking machine-readable information in identity documents and identification papers. So it is quite possible that the change to the new typeface was made on the basis of increased security standards on the one hand and with regard to an optical harmonization of the typeface on the other. Because OCR-B is also used on the inside of Swiss passports. As the federal administration informs dt upon request, some of the ID cards contain proprietary fonts that belong to the federal government and are not publicly available.

In addition to the information on the website of the Federal Office of Police, a video presenting the passport was also produced:

In addition to the passport, a new identity card is being developed and designed. The introduction of this identity card is planned for the first half of 2023. The new Swiss passport is now available from the respective cantonal passport offices.

The design of the new Swiss passport was created in collaboration with the company RETINAA SA (Geneva).

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The design, especially the red cover including the contour lines used in the blind embossing process, conveys value. Not only does the Swiss passport have more to offer in terms of feel than its German counterpart, the design is also visually more compelling. While in the German passport design elements such as the Brandenburg Gate, the federal eagle or stars are sometimes chaotically arranged in a completely uninspired way, the Swiss passport works a design concept.

Switzerland is certainly not the only country in the world characterized by a landscape formed by mountains and water. And yet, if you want to create compelling design, you need a concept, an idea, a leitmotif, something meaningful. In this respect, the Swiss federal administration is ahead of the German federal government when it comes to passports. Because in Switzerland it has long been recognized that such a passport is more than just a document equipped with security features to identify a person. The passport is also an expression of the individual’s personality, so to speak of the national culture. In Norway too, the passport is seen as part of the national identity – it was redesigned accordingly with great care and attention to detail.

Nevertheless, the inside of the Swiss passport contains so many elements, shapes, signs and symbols that the lavish design sometimes seems a bit overwhelming. The inside pages could have done with a little more hellish clarity/objectivity.

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