Swiss Design Awards Online 2020

Philippe Jarrigeon
© Philippe Jarrigeon

Failure is not an Option?

Swiss Design Awards Online

14–18 September 2020


By Anna Niederhäuser & Lucas Uhlmann

Owing to the cancellation of the exhibition and competition in Basel this year as a result of the pandemic situation, the Swiss Design Awards are staging an alternative programme entitled Failure is not an Option?, allowing competition finalists and experts in the field of design to share impressions and knowledge on the very particular year we are experiencing. The prize money has been distributed evenly among the 37 finalists in recognition of their selection for the second round of the competition and by way of financial support in these trying times, but this programme is an attempt to make up in some way for another thing we have lost because of the prevailing circumstances: the important and stimulating moments of exchange and networking during the exhibition week in Basel.

During the week of 14–18 September 2020 the Swiss Design Awards will broadcast conversations and live chat rooms that will be available to read, watch and comment on the Swiss Design Awards blog. In a second stage, this content will be edited and published in a magazine that will be available this autumn in various institutions and bookstores.

Failure is not an Option?

It has now been 50 years since the Apollo 13 mission was supposed to land on the moon. The story of the mission’s failure but the astronauts’ successful return to Earth has been adapted into a film (Ron Howard, 1995) for which the supposedly original quotation was actually written a posteriori. The perspective offered by the historical context of space exploration combined with the current revival of plans to install a permanent human presence on the Moon, means we can turn the quotation into a question for today.

The Swiss Design Awards are currently also confronted with failure, with the impossibility of functioning as normal. Yet all things being equal, could it not be argued that the Apollo mission was, not only in what it failed to achieve but also in where it succeeded, a design issue? Through the wide-ranging Failure is not an Option? programme, the Swiss Design Awards aim to question the idea of failure as a malfunction, embrace the reassessment that the absence of normality permits, and perhaps even entertain the idea that failure might be a better option. This endeavour is especially suited to the design (creative economy) sector, as most of its methods are related to the concept of disrupting the state of things to provide some novelty.

With this in mind, we look forward to welcoming you on the Swiss Design Awards blog to follow the responses of designers and experts in their fields.

Further information