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To the present day, design in Switzerland has the reputation of being honest, precise, sober and user-friendly. A new exhibition entitled “100 Years of Swiss Design” (at Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich from 27th of September to 8th of February 2015) presents for the first time an exhaustive overview of Switzerland as a nation of designers. The exhibition displays significant design objects from the field of furniture and product design. Apart from the originals, sketches, prototypes, models and photographs shed new light on Switzerland as a centre of design. The show also brings out the ingenuity of Swiss product designers in devising every objects that changed and improved our daily lives. Images courtesy: Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.

Feller AG, Tumbler Switch, ca. 1948, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito © ZHdK. Everyone has used it in Switzerland, everyone has pressed lightly on its smooth switch, registered a faint click, and brought light into a room. It is not known who designed the tumbler switch in the Feller company. But it stepped to the forefront of Swiss design history when Max Bill singled it out as a model to be copied and described it as “perhaps the ultimate form for a light switch” at the 1949 exhibition entitled “Die gute Form”.

Blattmann Metallwarenfabrik AG, MEWA, Kettle TECA, 1949 / Alfred Roth, Aluminium Chair, 1933 / Wilhelm Kienzle, Cactus Watering Can, Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito © ZHdK

Alfred Hablützel, Designers and their furniture, 1964, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection © ZHdK. Through the decades of the 20th century, from the early years with their regional roots around the turn of the century through “Die gute Form” (Good Design) of the 1950’s was led by a young, globally networked generation of designers.

Willy Guhl, Models of Scobalit chair, 1948, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection, photo: FX. Jaggy, © ZHdK

Willy Guhl, Beach Chair, 1954, photo: FX. Jaggy, © ZHdK. Some Swiss designs like Hans Coray’s Landi chair, the USM Haller system or the Eternit beach chair by Willy Guhl went on to gain iconic status well beyond their everyday use context.

Eternit AG, Mould of the Prototype of Beach Chair by Willy Guhl, 1954, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection, photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito, © ZHdK

“Landi” Chair designed by Hans Coray is the official outdoor chair of the Schweizerische Landesausstellung (Swiss National Exhibition), held in Zurich in 1939. It was designed in 1938 and went into production in 1939 by the manufacturer P. & W. Blattmann Metallwarenfabrik, Wädenswil, Switzerland. In 1962 the manufacturers changed the number and arrangement of the perforations, reducing the rows from 7 to 6 and the original 91 holes to 60; after 1971 also marketed under the name “2070 Spartana” by Zanotta s.p.a. This enabled mass production rather than individual processing and gave the springy seat greater stability.

Sigg AG, Hot Water Bottle with Stopper 1925 and 1968, Design Collection, Photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito © ZHdK. Further exemplary everyday products typifying high quality Swiss design are manufactured by companies such as Therma, Embru, Langenthal, Horgen-Glarus, Sigg and Mammut.

Swiss architect (1903-1998) Alfred Roth's Hausbar home bar table or drink wagon, 1932. Photo: Hans Finsler. Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, ZHdK / Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, MfGZ / Grafiksammlung.

Antonio Vitali, Wooden Fox, 1944, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito © ZHdK

Paillard S.A., Hermes Baby, 1938, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: U. Romito © ZHdK

Karl Zysset, Zylyss, ca. 1950 / MEWA Blattmann, Kettle TECA, 1949. Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: U. Romito © ZHdK

Willy Guhl, Plant Pot Elefantenohr (Elephant Nose), ca. 1951, Eternit AG, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection © ZHdK

Norm, 100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design, 2014, Publication, ed. Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Lars Müller Publishers © ZHdK

Norm, 100 Years of Swiss Design, 2014, Publication, ed. Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Lars Müller Publishers, © ZHdK

Wisa-Gloria AG, Three Wheeler, 1970, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection, photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito, © ZHdK. The modern era of design is defined by reduction, miniaturisation, aluminum, ergonomics, order, individualization or luxury.

Susi and Ueli Berger, Cloud Lamp, 1970. Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito © ZHdK

Bruno Rey, Rey-Chair, 1971, Limited Edition of 2005. Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito © ZHdK

Oskar Zieta, Plopp, 2007 / Frédéric Dedelley, Melancholic Diamond, 2007, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection, photo: U. Romito © ZHdK. Swiss designers also confronted the crisis of modernism and broke with convention: modern classics were subjected to critical scrutiny, new life styles tested. A process of reciprocal inspiration occurred between art and design, craft and industry, everyday and luxury products.

Big-Game, Bold Chair, 2007 / A-C-E, Chaise/Chair, 2011, Museum für Gestaltung, Design Collection. Photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito © ZHdK

Michel Charlot, U-Turn, 2012 / Sigfried Giedion, Indi-Leuchte, 1932, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: FX. Jaggy & U. Romito © ZHdK. Today a young generation of designers draws on pre-modern traditions, combines technical progress with history and understands local culture in a global context.

Paillard S.A., Hermes Baby, 1938, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. Photo: U. Romito © ZHdK