Most Beautiful Swiss Books

Helmhaus Zürich, Photo: Guadalupe Ruiz © FOC

Competition

'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.

Jury

Gilles Gavillet, 1973, Lausanne (Chair of the Jury)
Gilles Gavillet studied graphic design at ECAL Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne, where he set up the digital type foundry Optimo (www.optimo.ch) upon completing his degree in 1998. After working with Cornel Windlin in Zurich, in 2001 he teamed up with David Rust to found a studio in Geneva specialising in book design, visual identity and typography. From 2004 to 2015 Gilles Gavillet was art director at the art book publisher JRP Ringier. Here he developed a number of book series and produced numerous monographs and books in collaboration with contemporary artists. He has created a range of visual identities including Frac Champagne-Ardenne (2008) and RocNation for the rapper Jay-Z (2009), and has worked with international institutions such as the Biennale Arte in Venice (Illuminazioni, 2011) and the Guggenheim Museum New York (Hugo Boss Prize, 2014). Since 2013 he has been art director and designer of the annual catalogue for Art Basel, which comprises fairs in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami.

David Bennewith, 1977, Takapuna (New Zealand)
David Bennewith is a graphic designer and design researcher based in Amsterdam. Under the name ‘Colophon’ he works on research and commissioned projects focused on type design and typography. He has done extensive research into New Zealand type design, particularly the work of Joseph Churchward, publishing a monograph on him in 2009. Recent work has included identity, editorial and catalogue design for ‘Secret Power’, New Zealand’s entry to the 2015 Biennale Arte in Venice; identity and graphic design for Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht; and ‘Taught.’, an essay about graphic designer Karel Martens’ teaching career, published in ‘reprint karel martens’ by Roma Publications. Since 2015 he is the head of the graphic design department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam.

Markus Dressen, 1971, Münster (Germany)
Markus Dressen is a graphic designer, publisher and professor based in Leipzig. He studied graphic design at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst 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. He was admitted into the Alliance Graphique Internationale in 2004. He has been Professor of Graphic Design at HGB Leipzig since 2006. In 2004, Markus Dressen was awarded the Golden Letter in the ‘Best Book Design from all over the World’ competition for designing the book ‘Olaf Nicolai: Rewind Forward’. He was commissioned to create the corporate design of the Kieler Woche in 2007 and received the Ladislav Sutnar Prize from the Faculty of Design and Art at the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň in 2013.

Mirjam Fischer, 1969, Bern
Mirjam Fischer studied art and architecture history and modern German literature in Bern. She was a research assistant on the catalogue of Paul Klee’s works for the Paul Klee Stiftung, Bern. Between 1998 and 2007 she reorganised and ran the ‘Most Beautiful Swiss Books’ competition at the Federal Office of Culture in Bern. From 2007 to 2012 she was director of Edition Patrick Frey in Zurich with responsibility for management and the production of numerous artists’ books. She set up mille pages in 2013 and works as an independent book producer and publisher in the fields of art, photography and design for various institutions (Kunstmuseum Bern, Technorama, Kunsthaus Zürich) and publishers (The Green Box, Limmat, NZZ Libro, Salis). As managing editor she was responsible for the conception and production of the Short Guide for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014/15 in India.

Tania Prill, 1969, Hamburg
Tania Prill studied visual communication at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen and the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste. She took the Executive Master ‘Design | Art + Innovation’ at the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Basel. Founded in Zurich in 2001, her studio Studio Prill & Vieceli – Prill Vieceli Cremers since 2011 – has received numerous international honours including the Jan Tschichold Award 2007. In addition to commissions in the field of culture, Prill Vieceli Cremers has produced its own book projects, including ‘336 pages, 336 books’ (2014) and ‘MONEY’ (2015). Tania Prill works as an editor, publisher and curator. She has taught typography and visual communication at universities in Switzerland and elsewhere since 1997. From 2004 to 2010, she was Professor of Communication Design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe. She was appointed Professor of Typography at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen in 2010.

Participating in the competition

At the end of January 2018, the most beautiful Swiss books of 2017 will be judged by the jury of the competition. The submission date for books from the year 2017 on our online platform (Platform for supporting subsidies FPF) is December 7th, 2017. After the online registration, you have until December 31st 2017 to send in a physical copy of your book (date on the postmark).

Catalogue

The Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2016
Published by the Federal Office of Culture, Bern
Concept and graphic design: Hubertus Design, Zürich/New York
Photography/Litography: Widmer & Fluri, Zürich
Texts: Tan Wälchli, Berlin / Zürich Matthias Michel, Zürich
Languages: German, French, Italian, English
Publication date: August 2017
ISBN: 978-3-909928-40-8
Distribution Switzerland/Germany/Austria: Edition Hochparterre, www.edition.hochparterre.ch
International Distribution: Idea Books, Amsterdam, idea@ideabooks.nl, www.ideabooks.nl