Customer trends in advanced visual security for credentials


In this day and age, securing one's identity can be a complicated task.

Despite advancements in security features and technology, it is often the case that security or front-desk personnel validate credentials by simply eyeballing the card for a photo or expiration date. Only in the event where something doesn't seem right in the visual inspection is the credential evaluated more closely.

In my role at HID Global, I have insight into the customized, high security features that end users are starting to build into card designs to protect identities to address this issue. Some of the trends in creating high security credentials I am seeing include:

Incorporating several different security elements
Visual security elements (VSEs) create multiple barriers for counterfeiters, and most customers now choose to include at least one element in their card designs. While some elements are easy to detect, others can only be detected and authenticated using special tools. Available security elements fall into three main categories:


  • 1) Overt - visible to the human eye and easy to recognize (e.g., a hologram that changes colors as the card is rotated to a specific angle)

  • 2) Covert - hard to detect without close visual inspection (such as microtext printing hidden within a line or curve within the hologram's design. While the text is technically visible to the human eye, the observer is unlikely to notice it).

  • 3) Forensic - invisible to the human eye and requires special tools to validate (e.g., nano text which can be viewed only with high-powered magnification).



Well-designed overt features should be difficult for counterfeiters to perfectly replicate. In the event a counterfeiter is able to closely mimic overt features, it is highly unlikely that the counterfeiter will notice covert features and incorporate them into their design. As a final defense, forensic features are a highly reliable means of identifying a genuine credential.

Layering VSEs throughout the card
To further increase the difficulty of counterfeiting, customers are creating layered solutions by incorporating VSEs into several areas of the card. For example, they may incorporate a forensic element into their pre-printed card design, add a HoloMark™ foil stamp containing an overt element to the card surface, and incorporate a covert element into holographic PolyGuard® overlaminate being used to increase durability.

Using creativity
Customers are also becoming more creative about how the VSEs are incorporated into their overall card design. Some customers factor in select VSEs at the very beginning of the card design process - when the graphic artist designs the background image to be printed on all cards. The photo, data fields and signature may be placed in specific areas of the card background so that they blend well with VSEs that will be laid down on top of the card after printing, in the form of a holographic overlaminate applied during the lamination process.

The key is to understand which visual security elements are ideally suited to your organization's security needs. Many customers use a card design guide in addition to many other factors that help them determine the right solution.