Bringing Costa Rica's place brand to life in their passport design

Technology is in constant evolution, which directly affects international security in terms of how crucial travel documents such as passports are presented and prepared. Costa Rica is the regional pioneer in technology, but the document that allowed Costa Ricans to move around the world had not evolved with them. The country had a particular challenge: to transmit the essence and values of Costa Rica to every corner of the world, through the design of a new biometric passport.

The Costa Rican passport had never previously been designed by Costa Rican hands but by Europeans, Asians and even Americans. This was the perfect moment for national designers to capture and transmit the identity of the country into the new biometric passport.

Identifying the core visual characteristics

To meet the challenge, the team needed to co-ordinate with numerous state institutions in the midst of a pandemic, and work with international regulatory entities on migration security issues as well as managing the co-ordinated production of all passports in the country.

The core challenge was deciding on what characteristics best represented Costa Rica.

Central to the strategy was the country’s Biodiversity. Costa Rica is proud of being home to 6.5% of the world’s biodiversity. After an exhaustive analysis, the team defined Cocos Island as the iconic element for this design element, since it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The second axis was Renewable Energies, with 100% of the country’s electric matrix derived from renewable sources, clean sources, represented by one of the main areas of clean energy production in Costa Rica: the Arenal Area.

Next was Education/Peace. Because in Costa Rica, there wouldn’t be one without the other. Education has been free and obligatory in the country since 1948, when they became the first country in the world to abolish the army and focus its economic resources on education.

Finally, the Talent of the people, which unites the three previous elements to create a highly capable country.

Designing Costa Rica's new passport

The design of the biometric passport had to consider the international security guidelines in place to prevent falsification, and the team managed to convert generic security patterns into specific design patterns for each representative axis. 

In Biodiversity, the Pacific Ocean’s waves were used to generate a design that worked as a safety pattern. The Arenal Volcano demonstrated geothermal energy, the Arenal Lagoon hydroelectric energy, and the Tilaran wind turbines wind energy. Education and Peace was represented by the most recognizable school in the country – The Architectural Heritage of Costa Rica: The Metallic School Building, alongside historical elements, such as the pen that signed the Act of the Army Abolition. The Talent axis was expressed through what represents the effort and capacity of a country, including a cart as a symbol of work.

On March 7th, 2022 the new biometric passport was launched. The results exceeded the team’s expectations with 173,320 requests for the new biometric passport over the initial period, and with 115,000 more passport applications projected by the end of 2022. National media coverage was extensive, and international media also covered the news. Reach continues to grow every time a Costa Rican travels to any corner of the world!

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