Spring 2003

Swiss undesign

Swiss Design 2002: Netzwerke / Réseaux / Networks

Lars Müller Publishers, £28

The ‘Swiss Federal Design Competition’, established in 1923, aims to blur boundaries between art and design and to help young freelances starting out. The work was divided into two categories: small-series (or unique) and large series, rejecting what the organisers termed the ‘harmless arts and crafts’ categories of graphics, photography, textiles, etc.

Seven essays explore the idea of networks, a theme used to support the contention that Switzerland is a small and cosy village, where un-pigeonholed designers know each other and are happy to help each other out (unlike big scary cities like London). In a visual essay, a children’s playground becomes a metaphor for the network.

The prizewinning work is shown in a self-consciously undesigned way, lying casually on judging tables. The whole book is a loosely edited collection of items, texts and materials – as if undesign were somehow ‘friendlier’, but the result is not a lot of fun.

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