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Exporting Swissness: Swiss Traditions and Visual Stereotypes in Contemporary Graphic Design

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Proceedings (peer-reviewed)
Author Lzicar Robert,
Project Swiss Graphic Design and Typography Revisited
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Proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Title of proceedings The 10th Conference of the International Committee for Design History & Design Studies
Place Taipei
DOI 10.5151/despro-icdhs2016-02_012

Open Access


"Swissness" is a label established in the 1990s to brand products and services made in Switzerland. Until today it is associated with values such as quality, accuracy, reliability and heritage. It has since expanded to encompass political and cultural issues. According to that development, visual references to "Swissness" can not only be found in product or tourist advertisements, but also in recently designed posters in the field of culture. In contrast to the market-oriented patriotism promoted by traditional definitions of Swissness, these artefacts contribute to alternative images of Swiss national identity and disseminate them through graphic design exhibitions all over the world. This becomes particularly relevant as Swiss graphic design and typography has recently been announced as candidate for the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, suggesting graphic design culture in Switzerland itself is associated with Swissness. This paper analyses three posters from the exhibition Stealing Swiss (Samwon Paper Gallery, Seoul, 10.20.–12.6.2014) and discusses how they question national stereotypes promoted by Swissness and support alternative approaches to it.