About the year 2006

Wo-Wo-Wonige!. Photography: Raphael Hefti

About the year 2006

Gold, Silver and Punk
Mirjam Fischer

Ski jumping is not the only discipline in which Switzerland is winning championship gold this winter season, with Simon Ammann; considerable successes have been chalked up in the sphere of book design as well. Swiss achievements are ringingly endorsed beyond our borders this year as well, as the Leipzig Book Fair showed. An international jury awarded one Golden Letter, one gold medal, two silver medals, five bronze medals and five diplomas of honour choosing from 545 publications submitted by 33 countries. Two medals went to books from the Swiss competition: the Atlas of Novel Tectonics received the Golden Letter, thus making it the third time since 1991 that Switzerland had won the highest of all prizes in the international design field. At the same time, the title on the Wo-Wo-Wonige! housing movement put a dissertation on the second podium, winning one of the two silver medals. Great grounds for celebration!

At the Swiss book design competition organized by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (SFOC), the jury unanimously voted for the designer team of Tania Prill and Alberto Vieceli from Zurich as the ‘book stars’ of the day. They went home with credit for not only three award-winning most beautiful Swiss books, including the jury favourite Hot Love. Swiss Punk & Wave 1976–1980 but also the Jan Tschischold Prize of 15,000 Swiss francs. The Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) enables the jury to grant an annual award to an individual, a group or an institution for outstanding achievement in the book design field.

398 publications in all were submitted to the competition for The most beautiful Swiss books. The seven-strong jury, presided over by François Rappo, awarded prizes to 33 books this year. The books submitted are assessed in terms of concept, graphic design and typo-graphy, then also the quality of their printing cover features, binding work and the materials used. Equally important criteria are originality and innovation in making the subject matter into a book.

The award-winning entries include many very carefully realized books in terms of their content, form and production relating to art and culture, a field in which traditionally more financial resources are invested and great attention paid to their production. But there are also some very exciting non-fiction books like a dissertation, an atlas containing elaborate cartographic material and a company report. The dimensions of the books covered a very broad spectrum, everything is there from a dainty small-format notebook to an outsize atlas or an artist’s book with 1,000 pages. With respect to design, it was striking how frequently hard black-and-white typography appeared, and interesting to see the repeated use of two fonts in particular: the contemporary Akkurat and the historic Fleischmann.

We are pleased to say that the book competition still attracts a great deal of interest in many ways, and triggers a broad response: the selection of the most beautiful Swiss books has previously been shown in the Swiss design museums (the Museum für Gestaltung und Kunst in Zurich and mudac in Lausanne), in the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris and at the Frankfurt and Leipzig Book Fairs, but last year it travelled further afield: new venues have been added in London (Design Museum) and also at exhibitions arranged partly through private initiatives in Amsterdam, Brussels and Vienna.

Another source of great pleasure is the catalogue available here (it too plays a great part in publicizing the competition). It has been realized for the third and final time by Laurent Benner and Jonathan Hares. The concept is based on the success of the two previous catalogues, and brings the trilogy to a brilliant conclusion. It takes up the idea of eight original pages printed on original paper again, but takes it further this time with a complete thumbnail summary of the contents. This means that all the pages are visible and easily accessible in a small size, along with a page in the original size. This creates a comprehensive impression of each prize-winning book by making available the tactility, the printing processes and the content. This project could not have been realized without the usual close and stimulating co-operation between the graphic designers, all the producers involved and the wholesale paper trade.

So we would like to thank the printers of all the award-winning books and the paper firms Munkedals Arctic Papers AB, Antalis AG, Inapa Schweiz AG / Baumgartner Papier, M-real Biberist and Fischer Papier AG for their magnificent support (with material, work and ideas).

And the project could equally not have been concluded successfully without vigorous support and consistent benevolence in relation to the book competition from Burkhardt bookbinders and the Odermatt press. Our warmest thanks go to them as well!

Now all that remains to be said is: take up your books and read!


François Rappo, 1955, Lausanne, Chair of the Jury
Graphic designer and typographer. Active in the fields of book design and type design, corporate and exhibition design as well as orientation and information systems. Since 1996 Head of the Department of Visual Communication at the ECAL in Lausanne. Member of the Swiss Federal Design Commission.

Julia Born, 1975, Amsterdam (NL)
Trained in graphic design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, active as a freelance graphic designer between Amsterdam and Zurich, mainly in the cultural domain. Teaching activities at the ECAL in Lausanne and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

Lionel Bovier, 1970, Zurich
Art historian and publisher since 1999. From 1990 to 2003 he realized numerous exhibitions on a free-lance or associate basis for institutions like Le Magasin in Grenoble and the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne. He is a director of JRP|Ringier, which he founded with Michael Ringer in Zurich in 2004, and is also responsible for creating and organizing the new ‘Artists’ Books’ section at the Basel Art Fair.

Patrick Frey, 1951, Zurich
Studies in Economics and art history. Art historian, exhibition organizer and publisher of art books. Writes and publishes on contemporary art and artists, photography and the phenomena of everyday culture. Since 1983 /84 active in cabaret and the theatre as well as projects for radio and television.

Hans-Jürg Hunziker, 1938, Paris (F)
Trained as a typesetter, worked at Mergenthaler Linotype in New York, then with Adrian Frutiger in Paris. Since 1976 active as a freelance typographer. Type instruction at the Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich and director of studies at the Atelier National de Création Typographique in Nancy.

Karel Martens, 1939, Arnheim (NL)
Since 1961 active as visual designer in the fields of book art and typography for a wide variety of clients. Teaching activity at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. In 1996 awarded the Dr.A.H.Heineken Prize for Art. Founder of Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem.

Käti Robert-Durrer, 1948, Zürich
After graphic art studies at the Schule für Gestaltung Luzern, Käti Robert-Durrer worked for Pentagram Design in Zurich and London. Since 1977 she has had her own studio in Zurich with partner Jean Robert and has concentrated on images, posters, books and catalogues for various cultural institutions.