About the year 2016


About the year 2016

The Swiss Federal Office of Culture organizes the competition ‘The Most Beautiful Swiss Books' on an annual basis. It thereby recognizes excellence in the field of book design and production, as well drawing attention to remarkable and contemporary books by Swiss designers, printers and publishers.

The five-member jury appraised all the submissions and selected 24 titles as the Most Beautiful Swiss Books of 2016.

The Most Beautiful Swiss Books of 2016 will be on display to the public at the Helmhaus Zurich from 31st august to 3rd september. The catalogue of this year's competition will be published at the same time. The winner of the Jan Tschichold Award will be honoured at the vernissage. Further events at the weekend will examine key issues related to the subject of books.

From autumn 2017, the "Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2016" exhibition will be presented at a series of locations in Switzerland. Each year, the award-winning books also travel abroad at the invitation of local institutions and events, with exhibition venues this time round including Rhode Island, Providence, US (RISD ─ Rhode Island School of Design), San José, Costa Rica (Despacio), London (Umlaut), Paris (Centre culturel suisse), Copenhagen (Officin) and Oslo (Grafill), Vienna (Typographische Gesellschaft Austria) and Brussels (erg ─ école de recherche graphique et supérieure des arts).


Gilles Gavillet, 1973, Lausanne (Chair of the Jury)
is a graphic designer based in Geneva. In 1998, he co-founded the Optimo type foundry. From 2004 to 2015 he served as art director of the publisher JRP|Ringier, and in 2013 he became art director of the annual publication of Art Basel. Since 2008 he is a professor of visual communication at ECAL Lausanne.

David Bennewith, 1977, Takapuna (New Zealand)
is a graphic designer and design researcher based in Amsterdam, where he works on both research-oriented and commissioned projects under the name Colophon - with particular interest and focus on the disciplines of type design and typography. Since 2015, he is the head of the graphic design department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam.

Markus Dressen, 1971, Münster (Germany)
is a graphic designer, publisher and professor based in Leipzig. Together with Anne König and Jan Wenzel he publishes the magazine Spector Cut+Paste (since 2000), and co-founded the publishing house Spector Books in 2008. Since 2004 a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale, and a professor of graphic design at HGB Leipzig since 2006.

Mirjam Fischer, 1969, Bern
served from 1998 to 2007 as coordinator of The Most Beautiful Swiss Books competition at the Federal Office of Culture in Bern, later becoming the director of publications at Edition Patrick Frey in Zürich. In 2013 she started Milles pages, where she works for a variety of institutions and publishers as an independent book producer and editor-at-large in the domains of art, photography and design. From 2014 to 2016 she was the head of the publications department of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. 

Tania Prill, 1969, Hamburg (Germany/Switzerland)
co-founded in 2001 the studio Prill & Vieceli - since 2011, Prill Vieceli Cremers - where she realises commissions in the cultural sector as well as self-initiated book projects such as MONEY (2015) and Under the Radar - Underground Zines and Self-Publications 1965-1975 (2017). She has been teaching since 2004: as a professor of communication design at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design until 2010, and since then as professor of typography at the University of the Arts Bremen.


'The Most Beautiful Swiss Books' competition was established to promote and reward top-quality book design in Switzerland The competition is open to graphic designers, publishers and printers. Annually, the Federal Office of Culture receives around 400 submissions. A five-member, internationally staffed jury selects the most beautiful Swiss books each year. The competition charts current trends and tendencies in contemporary book design and production, while also looking back on a substantial and significant history.

What qualifies as a Swiss book?
A book is considered a Swiss book when it fulfils at least one of the following three criteria: the book was designed by a Swiss designer, the publisher has its headquarters in Switzerland, or the printer has its headquarters in Switzerland.

The judging criteria
In judging the submissions to the competition, the jury takes into account each book's overall concept, graphic design and typography, and pays particular attention to innovation and originality. Further criteria include the quality of the printing and the cover, the binding and the materials used. The award is conceived as a distinction and no prize money is conferred. There is no hierarchy among the prizewinning books.

Catalogue and exhibitions
The results of the jury's verdict are published annually in a catalogue, containing the jury reviews and various data on the prizewinning books. In addition, a number of exhibitions are mounted annually in Switzerland, while the books are also presented in several smaller exhibitions abroad. Catalogue and exhibitions not only lend the award greater visibility, they also promote the exchange of ideas among designers, printers and publishers.

History of the competition
In 1998, the Federal Office of Culture took over the coordination of 'The Most Beautiful Swiss Books' competition, which had previously been organized by the Swiss Association of Booksellers and Publishers. Since then, the competition has undergone a reassessment of its strategy and content, factors which still apply today. Since the professional and design expertise of the jury members has top priority, greater emphasis is therefore placed on the aspect of design. Taking into account globally changing conditions of production, the competition now allows for a more international outlook.