Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
A classic teenage fetish object, the American driver's license has long symbolized freedom and mobility in a nation whose design assumes car travel and whose vastness rivals continents. It is youth's pass to regulated vice-cigarettes, bars, tattoo parlors, casinos, strip joints, music venues, guns. In its more recent history, the license has become increasingly associated with freedom's flipside: screening. The airport's heightened security checkpoint. Controversial ID voting laws. Federally mandated, anti-terrorist driver's license re-designs. The driver's license encapsulates the contradictory values and practices of contemporary American culture-freedom and security, mobility and checkpoints, self-definition and standardization, democracy and exclusion, superficiality and intimacy, the stable self and the self in flux.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in the The Atlantic.