About the year 2020

© Clément Lambelet

About the year 2020

Every year, the FOC organises the "Most Beautiful Swiss Books" competition to honour outstanding achievements in the field of book design and production, with particular attention being paid to works that express contemporary trends. The 19 Most Beautiful Swiss Books of the 2020 edition were named by the FOC on the recommendation of the jury. In view of the public health restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19, an ad hoc jury was convened, consisting of Gilles Gavillet (chair), Nicolas Eigenheer, Simone Farner, Sereina Rothenberger and Gesa Schneider. The award-winning books will be shown in an exhibition at the Helmhaus in Zurich from 24 to 27 June 2021 and will then be on display at other locations in Switzerland and abroad.


Gilles Gavillet, 1973 (chair of the jury)
Gilles Gavillet (chair of the jury) was born in Lausanne in 1973 and is a graphic designer based in Geneva. He co-founded the Optimo type foundry in 1998 and was artistic director of art publishers JRP|Ringier from 2004 to 2015. He became artistic director of the annual Art Basel catalogue in 2013. Gilles Gavillet has been Professor of Visual Communication at ECAL (École cantonale d’art de Lausanne) since 2008.

Gesa Schneider, 1973
Gesa Schneider was born in Bonn in 1973. She has been director of the Literaturhaus Zurich since 2013 and was co-director of the Museum Strauhof from 2015 until 2018. After completing her thesis on Kafka and photography she worked as a project manager for Heller Enterprises from 2006 to 2013. She taught image theory at the F+F School of Art and Media Design in Zurich between 2008 and 2013. 

Simone Farner, 1980
Simone Farner was born in Stammheim, Zurich, in 1980 and has been working as a freelance designer in Zurich since 2008. Her main focus is on book design. Since 2013 she has been central to the design approach of the publishers Hier und Jetzt and created over 50 book publications, working since 2018 with Naima Schalcher. The duo are responsible for the visual identity of the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne.

Nicolas Eigenheer, 1983
Nicolas Eigenheer was born in Neuchâtel in 1983 and is a graphic designer and typographer based in Zurich. He worked at the Gavillet & Rust studio in Geneva from 2006 to 2011 before moving to JRP|Ringier in Zurich, where he was an in-house graphic designer from 2011 to 2015 and artistic director from 2016 to 2018. He has been a member of the Circuit (Centre d’art contemporain) collective in Lausanne since 2010 and artistic director of the music label WRWTFWW Records since 2018.

Sereina Rothenberger, 1981
Sereina Rothenberger was born in 1981 and has run the graphic design studio Hammer in Zurich since 2008, together with David Schatz. She held a professorship at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design from 2013 to 2019, latterly serving as a head of department. She has been teaching the Master programme in Graphic Design at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in the US since 2015 and has been joint head of the programme since 2020. She has also been an advisor at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht since 2020.


The competition "The Most Beautiful Swiss Books" is an instrument of the Federal Office of Culture that rewards the quality of book design in Switzerland and brings it closer to the public. The competition is open to exponents from the fields of design, publishing and printing. Every year, around 400 titles are submitted to the Federal Office of Culture. A five-member international jury selects the most beautiful Swiss books of each year from these entries. The competition records trends and identifies tendencies in contemporary book design and production, while at the same time creating a historical memory that goes back a long way.

What is a Swiss book?
A product is considered a Swiss book if it meets at least one of the following three criteria: The book was designed by a Swiss designer, the publishing house has its headquarters in Switzerland, or the printing house has its headquarters in Switzerland.

Criteria of the jury
The jury evaluates each entry in terms of its concept, graphic design and typography and pays particular attention to innovation and originality. Further criteria are the quality of the print and binding, the bookbinding processing and the materials used. The award is intended as a tribute and no cash prizes are awarded. There is no hierarchy of awards; all the most beautiful Swiss books chosen each year are treated equally.

Communication of the results
The jury's findings are published in a catalogue, which presents the award-winning books on the basis of the jury report. Furthermore, exhibitions of the award-winning books take place within Switzerland, as well as smaller exhibitions and presentations of the books abroad. Exhibitions and the catalogue give the award publicity and also support the exchange between exponents of the book design, printing and publishing industries.

The history of the competition
In 1998, the Federal Office of Culture (BAK) took over the organisation of the competition 'The most beautiful Swiss books' from the Swiss Booksellers and Publishers Association, which had been running the competition since 1943. The takeover was accompanied by a new strategic and content orientation which is still valid today. Only design and professional competence is decisive for jury membership, which means that greater emphasis is placed on the design aspect. With the opening up of competition to foreign countries, the production-related changes on the book market were taken into account.