"If Taiwan adopts a quirky motif on its next passport, it will signal a break in the long tradition of using crests, coats of arms, cartouches, and other stodgy symbols in the history of travel documents. When passports were first used, projecting an air of formality in the graphic design was essential, in large part to convince border guards that your travel papers were legitimate and issued by an official body. But with the dawning of biometrics and ePassports in the late 1990s, a traveler’s data are now stored in a microchip embedded in the booklet. Today, computers ascertain the veracity of documents, thus technically eliminating the need to design documents so austerely.
The International Civil Aviation Organization in fact, only has recommendations, not rules, for what passports should look like. Despite this, most countries tend to stick to traditional colors to “look official” and uphold a “sense of propriety,” as explained in a 2018 Travel and Leisure article (though countries have begun to be a bit more creative on the inside). Similarly, South Sudan, the world’s newest country, chose a dark blue cover decorated with an eagle, ostensibly following the look of the US passport.
But seriousness is far from Taiwan’s favored policy. At this year’s TED conference, Taiwan’s digital minister Audrey Tang explained that government ministries routinely hire professional comedians as “engagement officers” to help scheme information campaigns. The Taiwanese government recently used memes featuring dogs to quash hoaxes about Covid-19 circulating on the internet. Even its top leaders are willing to be, quite literally, the butt of the joke.
That goofiness, which is reflected in many of the contest’s entries, is a genius foil to China’s dour authoritarianism, Hugh observes, where the government regularly tries to bar jokes about the Chinese president’s likeness to Winnie the Pooh.
“It’s the one thing that dictators really can’t deal with it,” said Hughes.”They can deal with criticism or dissidents by locking them up or shooting them but being laughed at is the opposite of fear.”"
Previously,The World's Most and Least Powerful Passports (February 2016)