Swiss Grand Award for Design

Award giving  /  14 Apr 2017
Published: 11.04.2017
David Bielander, Thomas Ott, Jean Widmer.
David Bielander, Thomas Ott, Jean Widmer

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The Federal Office of Culture has named jewellery designer and artist David Bielander, comic-book artist and illustrator Thomas Ott, and graphic designer and art director Jean Widmer as the winners of this year’s Swiss Grand Award for Design. With its selection, the Federal Design Commission recognises the work of three outstanding designers who have played a defining role in cultural creativity in Switzerland.
David Bielander translates simple everyday objects into exceptional pieces of artist jewellery, opening up unexpected lines of communication for both wearer and viewer. Thomas Ott is a master of storytelling whose dark, wordless comics are universally comprehensible and visually unmistakeable. Jean Widmer, meanwhile, is one of the first Swiss graphic designers in Paris, whose clear, precisely coloured designs were ahead of their time. He has created the visual identity of cultural institutions including the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée d’Orsay and the Institut du Monde Arabe.

The award winners will receive their honours on Tuesday 13 June 2017 in the Swiss Design Awards exhibition. The exhibition, which runs in parallel with Art Basel and DesignMiami, will also feature interviews and photographic portraits of the award winners.
Launched in 2007 and endowed with CHF 40,000 in each case, the Swiss Grand Award for Design highlights the work of well-known designers that exemplifies the quality and relevance of Swiss design practice nationally and internationally.

The laureates

David Bielander, b. 1968 in Basel Artist and jewellery designer, Munich
David Bielander (born 1968) develops intriguing jewellery pieces that defy user expectations and push the limits of what an ornament can be. Following apprenticeships in Basel and Schwäbisch Gmünd, Bielander enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he studied under professor Otto Künzli. He has since developed an unconventional, self-lead path where experimentation abounds, precious materials are subverted and pushed to the limit, and the user is intentionally pushed out of his comfort zone. Bielander lives and works in Munich, and his work has been shown in galleries and museums around the world.
The Confederation grants Bielander a Swiss Grand Award for Design in recognition of unconventional point of view and his critical method, which yield unconventional and striking results that set him at the forefront of international jewellery design. Prior to the Grand Award, Bielander has won the Swiss Design Award in 2012.

Thomas Ott, b. 1966 in Zurich Illustrator and comics artist, Zurich
Thomas Ott (born 1966) is a Zurich-based comics artist and illustrator who creates immersive and unique dark worlds. Following his studies at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich, Ott’s work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines throughout Europe. From his first book Tales of Error to his latest tome, A Hell of a Woman, he has refined his use of the scratchboard as a medium, creating striking characters and scenes with painstaking detail and clarity. Simultaneously, Ott’s wordless stories have become more layered and complex, giving rise to kaleidoscopic narratives that are both violent and mesmerizing.
The Confederation grants Ott a Swiss Grand Award for Design in recognition of his unique place in the Swiss comics and illustration scene, as well as his unmistakable international appeal. The distinction of his work marks the first time the Award is bestowed upon a comics artist. Prior to the Grand Award, Ott has won the Swiss Design Award in 1986, 1989 and 1993.
Swiss Grand Award for Design 2017

Jean Widmer, b. 1929 in Frauenfeld Graphic designer and Art Director, Paris
Jean Widmer (born 1929) is a graphic designer and art director based in Paris. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich, under Johannes Itten, and shortly afterwards moved to Paris, as part of a group of Swiss designers which were to fundamentally influence graphic design in France in the second half of the twentieth century. Widmer was art director at Galeries Lafayette and fashion magazine Jardin des Modes, transforming the graphic outputs of both. Later, his posters for the Centre de Création Industrielle created an unmistakable style, which came to full fruition in his image for the Centre Pompidou and other cultural agents in Paris, as well as in important signage work for the French motorways and tourism signposts throughout the country.
The Confederation grants Widmer a Swiss Grand Award for Design in recognition of the fundamental relevance of his work and career, his important contribution to design education in France, and his role as a pioneer in a generation of Swiss practitioners who changed the course of graphic design in Europe in the 20th century.

About Federal Office of Culture
In addition to the Swiss Design Awards, the Federal Office of Culture has, for the last eleven years, presented the Swiss Grand Award for Design to individual designers or established design firms that contribute to the renown of Swiss design nationally and internationally. The Swiss Grand Award for Design originated as a means of encouraging, supporting and ultimately honouring the Swiss design scene. The prize communicates and indicates the traditions of Swiss design.

Federal Design Commision
Chair Lionel Bovier Director, Mamco (Musée d’art moderne et contemporain), Geneva
Members: Laurent Benner Visual designer, London and Zurich. Nicoletta Cavadini Director, m.a.x.museo, Chiasso. Christoph Hefti Textile designer, Brussels. Aude Lehmann Graphic designer, Zurich. Renate Menzi Curator, Design collection, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. Heidi Wegener Design consultant, Meilen.