The New Passport Design Is Fugly

The new passport design for the “e-Passport” is fugly. Each page is filled with various patriotic type images concluding with a weird image of space. We declare it to be hideous, and we are the arbiters of good taste. —MEGHANN MARCO

Design of the New US e-Passport [Department of State via Kottke]


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  1. homerjay says:

    Let the eaaaaaaaaagle soar– like he’s never sorn befoooooore!

  2. superlayne says:

    Ewwwww. Uncle Sam vomited on my pass to other nations. D:

  3. timmus says:

    Is it safe to say that a lot of committees were in on the design?

  4. cabinaero says:

    *Shudder* between this atrocity and the RFID tags, I’m exceptionally grateful that I’m good until January of 2014.

  5. rocketslide says:

    It looks like an homage to Stephen Colbert. Crumbelievable!

  6. mopar_man says:

    You know, I have no problem with people and countries being patriotic but there’s a line for that. This design crossed over over that line with a ramp and an 80 mph run.

  7. @timmus: Very safe.

  8. MercuryPDX says:

    On the plus side…. no one would counterfeit something that hideous.

  9. ord2fra says:

    Shoulda made the bald eagle with a tear and the twin towers in it’s eye. Or get a talon clutching some arrows in the picture!

  10. jwissick says:

    Please put void on the photo so that 419 scammers do not try to use it… 419 scammers love to use passports as part of the scam.

  11. bloodr says:

    While the new design is very pretentious, I can see logic in having all these complex pictures stuff in there since it would make counterfeiting an absolute nightmare.

  12. mkmead says:

    Wow, you all have zero taste.

    I just got mine two months ago and its exactly like this.

    Do you know how many compliments I got while in line about my passport when I was traveling through southeast asia last month?

    People love it and are jealous of our countries new passport designs from my experience.

  13. tylerkaraszewski says:

    I got one of these recently. It looks like it belongs on the set of the Colbert Report. Everyone I’ve shown it too has agreed that it’s excessively patriotic to the point of being annoying.

  14. OwenCatherwood says:

    @jwissick: That’s the ID on the Department of State’s website as an example, so someone should probably tell them that.

  15. valthun says:

    I recently applied for my passport and apparently got the old version. This new one does have the RFID chip as well. I guess it paid for the rush processing. Not enough time to create an RFID chip for me, and none of those crazy pictures. But I can almost guarantee that when this one expires the new one will have those images.

  16. MentalDisconnect says:

    @mkmead- Jealous? What are their passports designed on, cardboard? This design is super busy- I feel like they couldn’t decide what patriotic symbol to use, and like 5th graders contructing a poster, threw them all together. I like how the guy in the above photo is deemed to be a good representation of an American, the type of guy who probably designed the passport. White, middle-aged, presumably upper-middle class to wealthy, and Christian. Yay! I love diversity.

  17. Maulleigh says:

    That’s coming in the mail? Ugh. I’m going to black it out with a sharpie so no one in customs in another country can see where I’m from. :(

  18. Scazza says:

    I think the last thing an American traveling abroad wants is a custom agent seeing a passport decked out in “America is better that you” bullshit on every page, while everyone else in the world sticks with a minimalistic look.

  19. ngth says:

    Wow, this is an ugly passport. I should have gotten mine while it was still plain and GOOD looking.

  20. tozmervo says:

    The same group that is in charge of designing our incredibly ugly greenbacks must be in charge of designing passports, too.

  21. Jim C. says:

    Scazza: I think customs agents, like government employees all over the world, don’t give a rat’s behind.

    And tastes being transitory, I think those complaining about the looks would find their own choices being complained about sooner than they think.

    But it’s just a government document. It’s not supposed to be an artistic or fashion statement. Who cares what it looks like?

    tozmervo: if you don’t like the money, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands. :)

  22. superbmtsub says:

    Patriotism is ok but this is a hideous design. And ugly photo as well.

  23. Crim Law Geek says:

    No need to mark it as “SAMPLE”, I can guarantee you the sample images are missing a significant amount of detail. Enough for anyone with a brain stem to figure it out. Also, if you are too stupid to realize that you are being 419’d, you are too stupid to know what a real passport looks like.

    The design may be ugly, but the point is to make it as hard as humanly possible to counterfeit. I bet you that there is so detail in that eagle that you and I won’t notice is there, but a trained person will find in a second. The busier it is, the more “easter eggs” you can fit, without all the eggs becoming obvious.

    For example, the front back cover (the page behind the front cover) of my Swedish passport has an image by Carl Larson. The image is tilted about 2 degrees or so. The image seems useless, except a careless person may not notice the tilt. Of course, it’s too obvious for an experienced counterfeiter, so maybe they have to add another picture, which is tilted X degrees, where X is some derivative of 2, and the ink on the second image is .02% bluer, that sort of thing.

    Of course, there are ways to make it both secure and classy, but if there is one thing this administration lacks its any sort of classiness, so I’m glad my US passport was from the last batch of non-RFD/Uncle Sam’s Acid Trip passports.

  24. FLConsumer says:

    It’s racist! Look, the eagle is white!

  25. kimsama says:

    Wow, just wow. Could it be any more hilariously awesome?

    Only if it looked like this.

  26. formergr says:

    Not only is the new passport ugly, but the photo page isn’t thicker than the others anymore. It’s annoying, because with my old one I could easily flip it open to the photo page to speed processing, etc, but now I have to leaf to the right page (it’s about 3 pages in I think) while looking at it. It also feels like it could tear pretty easily and won’t be durable enough to last through 10 years of handling.

  27. lemur says:

    The thing that comes to my mind besides the ugliness of the design is that the pages where you get visa stamps have backgrounds on them that may make reading harder. I wonder if people are going to run in to trouble with border agents that won’t be able to read the visa stamps put in by one of their colleagues days, weeks or months earlier. I’d hate to be the one to find out about this potential problem.

  28. chuco says:

    Yikes, this uber patriotic passport is going to be a hit with customs when traveling abroad!

  29. faust1200 says:

    Oh it’s not that bad. If there were a hottie on the front instead of the default white ‘n pasty man “Frank Moss” I think there could be a different reaction.

  30. The Bigger Unit says:

    @kimsama: Damn, that made me laugh! THAT would be one hell of a passport design.

  31. karimagon says:

    I’ll have to renew my passport soon.

    Why do I have this strange desire to draw horns and a little moustache on the eagle?

  32. Hmm. I renewed my passport about a month ago and didn’t realize the design was so new. The color scheme is a lot more subtle than shown on the web site, and as someone already remarked the designs are very detailed, clearly to prevent counterfeiting. It won’t win any design awards, but I don’t think it’s that hideous.

    The pages not shown on the web site include a desertscape at sunset; a lake and mountain range; a colonial seascape with ship (looks like the Mayflower to me), lighthouse, and seagull; a plains scene with buffalo, a huge eagle’s head, an eagle’s silhouette, and another mountain range (this is by far the gaudiest page); a river scene with a steamboat and gently rolling hills; a farmer with oxen and plow with big wheat in the foreground; cattle ranchers; a steam locomotive; a bear eating a large fish from a mountain stream with a large totem pole in the foreground; the Statue of Liberty and a close-up of her stone tablet; and an island with palm tree in the foreground. The latter is only a half-page at the very end opposite the moon-and-spacecraft page.

    Uh, okay, so looking through I realize that it is pretty awful. But who cares? Like I said, the color scheme is subdued, and the outside of the passport is still minimilast silver-on-blue. I wouldn’t have expected anything different from the federal government.

  33. I snapped a few photos of the remaining pages and put them up on Flickr.

    Pardon the huge red watermarks, but I’m sure you can understand my making every effort to set the feds’ minds at ease about potential counterfeiting.

  34. ironchef says:

    looks like the Stephen Colbert collector’s edition!

  35. infinitysnake says:

    @homerjay: My thought EXACTLY!

  36. Dag says:

    @mopar_man: I agree completely. Patriotism is great, but there’s a reason people in other countries think of US citizens as blindly, outrageously patriotic or even jingoistic. This new passport design is an example of why.

  37. EtherealStrife says:

    @kimsama: !!!! I want one.

    “This document contains sensitive electronics. For best performance, do not bend, perforate or expose to extreme temperatures.”

  38. spidra says:

    Dang. I knew I’d regret my procrastination. Not only is the reg fee more, but now I have to deal with that jingoistic garbage design.

  39. acambras says:

    Yep, that’s pretty fugly.

  40. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    that “eagle” looks like a puffin.


  41. mopar_man says:

    To all those that say it’s to prevent counterfeit: they could’ve easily made plain pages and implemented something inside the pages like paper currency. I’m sure there’s other tasteful options they could’ve used as well.

  42. It’s right up there with velvet paintings of dogs playing poker.

    The irony is that if you find this “Let The Eagle Soar” aesthetic attractive, you’re probably one of the 79% of Americans who don’t have passports anyway.

  43. Jayus says:

    Mmm, I’d hit it. Mainly because it means I only have to wait the ten weeks for it rather than the four or five months it’s going to be taking mine.

  44. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @Dag: Nice I had to break out the dictionary for jingoistic. Learned a new word today thanks… As for the design ehh its not horrible its just a matter of taste I guess. I don’t mind the designs as much as it being a huge advert that says HEY LOOK AT ME I AM A AMERICAN!!!! I have been plenty of places where thats best kept on the DL…

  45. Trai_Dep says:

    Gawd. They REALLY should have had The Gays design the f*cker.

    What IS it with Republicans and crass absence of taste & decorum? The scary thing is that I’ll bet months were spent arguing the merits of Eagles Soar versus The Emancipator Triumphant.

    Shocked there’s no Lil’ Baby Jesus page. Amazed they skipped plastering President Iran/Contra’s wrinkley mug too. Remarkable self-restraint. For them.

  46. Jabes says:

    Maybe it’s supposed to be a picture book for the easily bored in long lines at customs, like a “quiet book” to keep kids silent at church. “Stop complainig about the long line and look at the pretty pictures!”

  47. Tallanvor says:

    It’s sad that they decided to ignore that identities of the states.

    Also, jwissick said the photo is several pages in? What idiot decided to move the photo from inside the cover page? Damn morons.

  48. palaste says:

    This must be the USA’s way of compensating for having the most boring-looking money in the world. =)

  49. rugger_can says:


    I am canadian. And I disapprove his message.

    Its ugly, I feel bad for you all. Its like a big orgy book of self congratulatory narco-patriotism. Kinda sad. No one loves us anymore so we will love ourselves.

  50. shdwsclan says:

    Hey, how do you secure an american passport?
    You use a degausser on it.

  51. tubgnome says:

    Wow. I’m really upset. I live abroad, and my passport is my only valid form of government- issued ID. My driver’s license is foreign and doesn’t count as ID here. So I’m going to be stuck showing my passport with this gigantic American flag motif to every bank, merchant, delivery guy and bouncer around??!!! Great. That’s an invitation to please target me for anti-American insults and violence.

    At a time when Americans are being told keep a low profile abroad, the new design makes no sense at all. I’m crossing my fingers they at least get rid of the huge hideous flag before my current passport expires.

  52. haiku says:

    I read somewhere that how ornate a country’s stamps and currency are are inversely correlated with its importance.

    If the same holds for passports we are in serious trouble.

    This is just really, really embarrassing. To identify its citizens, the government of the most powerful country in the world issues … a travel brochure?

    Guess not only the top political and legal jobs are being handed out on the basis of ideology and party loyalty. Is there a Pat Robertson design school out there too?

  53. lurch65 says:

    Okay, so it’s a hit in Southeast Asia. What if I’m travelling in the first world? @mkmead:

  54. bashar82 says:

    I applied for a new passport a few years ago when epassports were first issued. Though paid the security fee (which I presume was used to cover the cost of the biometric passport) I was issued an old one.