Design is a mirror of the circumstances and history of a country and its society. This is clearly evident in the trappings that make up the everyday lifestyle of many people in Switzerland where tradition has considerable status, even among contemporary designers and architects.
The Swiss grandfathers of design such as Le Corbusier, Hans Hilfiker and Hans Coray created guidelines for services as well as standards for design that are still approved today
A prime example is the shelf system developed by the engineer Paul Schärer in collaboration with the architect Fritz Haller. USM-Haller came into being at the beginning of the 1960s and is still the most successful furniture in Switzerland.
Even though Switzerland’s industry can’t compete with the large production areas of Southern Germany or Northern Italy, design issues are discussed in public in different ways. Major firms such as the Swiss Federal Railways have always cultivated design, it is vitally important to the watch trade, and smaller firms also use it to polish up their image.
Important mediators are the major daily newspapers, which regularly report on design in Switzerland and abroad. Other print voices are Lars Müller Publishers or magazines like Hochparterre. Digital platforms like websites or blogs have gained ground as well.
swissdesignawards.ch and designpreis.ch are the virtual faces of the two most important Swiss award institutions.
Switzerland also maintains several design museums such as the mudac in Lausanne, the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich and the Gewerbemuseum in Winterthur. All three present exhibitions on design, from spoons through to urban development. Another way to present design three-dimensionally is in one of the three fairs: Designer’s Saturday in Langenthal, Neue Räume in Zurich and Design Miami Basel.
But the most important places for a nation’s design future are the schools. During the past decade, Swiss education politicians radically reorganized the design schools and reallocated the main focus of the study program. For a few years now the Swiss school system has complied with the international system, which is based on bachelor and masters degrees. All the art schools are involved in this new concept: they do not merely teach, they pursue design research too. The fruits of this radical reorganization have been presented in the last few years — both as promising final degrees and successful research projects.