Passport art: Norway’s new passports feature illustrations of landscape that change from day to night in UV light

Created by Oslo-based design studio Neue, the redesigned passports have been realised after six years of development and are now available for Norwegians to carry during their travels.Photo courtesy: Neue Design Studio

Passport design is the most important aspect when it comes to representing a nation. And Norway seems to have taken this very seriously. Its new passports feature illustrations of the country’s landscape that change from day to night under UV light. Created by Oslo-based design studio Neue, the redesigned passports have been realised after six years of development and are now available for Norwegians to carry during their travels. Neue won a contest to redesign the country’s passports in 2014.

The winning design offers colourful changes both inside and out in an effort to stem fraudulent travel documents. The finalised versions of the passports are not only harder to forge, but also explore the sweeping landscapes of the nation. The outside of Norwegian passports appears in three colours: red for citizens, blue for diplomats and white for immigrants. The inside has a spread, bearing a pale blue image of a Norwegian landscape that changes from day to night when held beneath a UV light. The pages transform from a pale image of an open sky, sandwiched between two hills, to reveal a starry vista, with swirling ribbons of colour that emulate the Northern Lights, as well as previously invisible text at the bottom.

The objective of the two-step design was to develop a unique concept with a widely recognisable theme and a functional design of high quality. “The concept and theme were based on several criteria: to have a clear expression of Norwegian identity, be creative and innovative, as well as maintaining traditions and to remain relevant for many years,” Neue Design Studio says on its website.

But what’s most important is to have a solid foundation with the Norwegian people. “The design has created a sense of belonging and connection across age, gender and regions in Norway. Therefore, it was important to look at the historical foundation and what is in the Norwegian culture that creates a sense of belonging. It’s nature. It is, and has always been, part of history. The landscapes surrounding us give a sense of belonging and pride, and fill a symbolic function for the entire nation. Images of scenery and landscape can easily become clichés, but by being widely accepted and deeply rooted in Norwegian culture, they are also very easy to identify with. By using illustrations of single parts of a wide Norwegian panorama, from north to south, we want to show the contrasts in landscapes and climates that have shaped us, offered opportunities and resources, places for recreation and the scenes of important historical events,” says team Neue.

A passport is an object d’art rich in visual and historic narrative. Traditionally, passport design has rarely invited curiosity. But when it does, the cover and inside pages convey more of a local flavour packed with national monuments, natural wonders or remarkable incidents. Passports have different meanings for different people. For some, it’s about native places or a sense of belonging. For others, it’s a window to explore new dreams, boundaries and cultures.

The best part is that all countries have some uniqueness in their passports. Like the passport of New Zealand is multilingual. Maori, the official language of the country, was included in 2000, replacing French. The Swedish passport is famous for its beautiful countryside, but also for its architecture. In the passport, you find both together with UV variants.

According to the 2020 Henley Passport Index ranking on January 7, Sweden is among the top 10 most powerful passports in the world with visa-free travel to 186 countries. “The first Swedish passport was issued after World War I. The burgundy-coloured Swedish passport was redesigned in 2012 and has a street from Stockholm on the cover. Sweden has done a good nation-branding exercise by including a bird’s eye view of famous landmarks from different cities in Sweden on the inner pages. The cities included are Stockholm, Göteborg, Uppsala, Gävle, Malmö, Linköping, Norrköping, Jönköping, Östersund, Västerås, Visby, Luleå, Umeå and Kiruna. These sketches of the cities take on a whole new life when put under a UV light and reveal various Swedish symbols like the ‘tre kronor’, or the three crowns, the national Swedish emblem, amongst others,” says Ruth Dolla, manager, Visit Sweden, India.

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