For more identity, not less

Strategic design, service design and the infrastructure of everyday life, in the face of Brexit, Trump and deliberately diminished identity

Dan Hill
Dark Matter and Trojan Horses
34 min readMar 26, 2017

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Ed. A shorter version of this article first appeared at Dezeen in March 2017, entitled “Who will design a passport capable of containing multiple nested identities?”. It was written at various points over the last six months

I think I’m turning Estonian

Two days after the Brexit referendum result I became Estonian, at least to some extent. Actually to very little extent, legally. But up late, shattered by a result which felt like a brutal denial of my core existence, I found myself on the Internet, and rather than comfort-buying yet another Dieter Rams monograph, I applied for e-Residency in Estonia instead.

It cost me around €50 and 20 minutes filling in some vaguely well-considered online forms. I uploaded a photo of my passport, filled in some basic details and — from the pull-down menu asking as to why I was applying — I selected the pre-filled option “I’m a fan of e-residency”.

A few weeks later, presumably after Estonian police checks, I find myself in the well-heeled Embassy-ville of South Kensington, west London, stepping downstairs into the Baltic — or rather, a pale white basement office dressed as if Tallinn. A pale white Estonian embassy official, also dressed as if Tallinn, hands over a slim blue cardboard box containing my Estonian e-Residency ID card and a small black plastic rectangle, which unfolds to form a cruciform USB reader. This takes the chip-end of the ID card on one axis and slips into a USB socket on the other.

The official, discreet but friendly enough, snips the bottom off a piece of A4 with a pair of scissors — an act that feels curiously analogue, amidst all the digital authentication — and that’s that. The paper is my receipt. The blue ID card is part of my new identity. The perhaps appropriately cruciform reader is my interface with a new nation state. I have residency in Estonia, at least digitally, and can now open Estonian bank accounts and run a business through Estonia, should I wish to.

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Dan Hill
Dark Matter and Trojan Horses

Designer, urbanist, etc. Director of Melbourne School of Design. Previously, Swedish gov, Arup, UCL IIPP, Fabrica, Helsinki Design Lab, BBC etc