To win Design Prize Switzerland, artists must create products — clothing, furniture, home devices — that are beautiful to look at, meticulously constructed, and highly marketable.
Of course, the Swiss definition of marketable varies greatly from the American version, and the country tends to frown upon mass production save for Swatch watches and Lindt chocolates.
A new exhibit at Massachusetts College of Art and Design called “Excellent Swiss Design: An Exhibition Celebrating Ingenuity and Sustainability in Contemporary Design” showcases winning products made from small- and medium-size brands for the biennial Swiss prize. Among the pieces on display: menswear from emerging designer Sandro Marzo (pictured), a faucet valve called Swiss Eco Tap that reduces water consumption by 90 percent, innovative Cloud running shoes by Thilo Alex Brunner for On, and a table/stool by Christian Ferrara constructed without glue or hardware.
“Swiss design is a lot about reducing to the essential, a lot about proper processes and good quality,” said Michel Heuter, curator of the exhibition at the school’s Bakalar Gallery. “Quality is the only positioning where Switzerland can compete.”
To that end, the varied works in “Excellent Swiss Design,” which opened Wednesday and runs through Nov. 22, lack decoration and ornamentation. But Heuter said each comes from creative minds intent on precision, and many of the artists have spent years developing their ideas.
“Compared to other markets, the Swiss take more time,” Heuter said. “The end result and product is more long-lasting.”
The MassArt staging, he added, is meant to foster an awareness of the country’s many small-scale design brands. “Many are not known to a wide audience. Even the furniture company Vitra is often mistaken as German,” he said. “What we put together is a selection of products and ideas anyone can easily relate to.”
Jill Radsken can be reached at email@example.com.