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Abstract

The small size of the contemporary Swiss graphic design scene makes it a hyper-connected environment that impacts the production of design. This paper uses a qualitative approach to understand the networks of Swiss designers and the influence exerted by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture. In particular, it examines the actors and networks of three winners of the 2002 Swiss Design Awards: Gilles Gavillet, Norm and Megi Zumstein. Indeed, 2002 is a particularly relevant year as it marks the moment the Awards were modified to reflect changes in design practices, envisioning the Swiss Federal Office of Culture as an actor within the Swiss design network. The paper uses a selection of artefacts as starting points to retrace the networks. The objects are chosen from interviews with designers, literature reviews and awards, and their analysis leads to connections with actors that are usually less visible within design networks, such as photographers, editors or informal collaborators. A preliminary examination highlights the designers’ networking strategies in the cross-section of scenes they represent and shows the role played by the Swiss Design Awards in launching careers. Preliminary results show that these networks are mostly informal and mainly located within the cultural sector because it offers more creative opportunities. They highlight the role played by key institutions either as clients, promotional platforms, awarders or networking spaces.

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