Symposium: Is this Swiss?

A one-day symposium devoted to graphic design from Switzerland questioning the connections between the works exhibited within the framework of “Swiss Style Now” and the way contemporary designers are dealing with the legacy of the Swiss Style.

Event Details


Rose Auditorium, The Cooper Union
41 Cooper Square, New York, New York 10003 United States


September 10, 2016 from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm America/New York (UTC-05:00)


Free and open to the public, but registration is required



Is this Swiss?” is a one-day event devoted to graphic design from Switzerland, with talks, panels, and a guided tour of the exhibition “Swiss Style Now” at 41 Cooper Gallery. It discusses what characteristics link the exhibited works, as well as if and how today’s designers deal with the legacy of the Swiss Style.

To examine these questions, the symposium invited award-winning graphic designers and typographers from Switzerland to present their work with a focus on national characteristics and the role of history in their professional practice. The morning kicks off with a welcome word from the organizers and two talks on the theoretical and historical background of the symposium, deriving from current research in the field of graphic design history. Afterwards, a guided tour of the exhibition by the curators gives the participants the opportunity to see concrete examples of works by the speakers and learn more about the curation process. The symposium ends with a panel discussion, reflecting the insights of the day and setting the ground for future debated questions on the subject. It is followed by an “Apéro” – a traditional Swiss drinks reception – for informal exchange.



10.00am – 10.30am: Welcome / introduction

10.30am – 11.00am: Robert Lzicar

11.00am – 11.30am: Alexander Tochilovsky

11.30am – 12.30pm: Exhibition tour with Erich Brechbühl, Xavier Erni, Noël Leu and Alexander Tochilovsky

12.30pm – 13.30pm: Lunch break

13.30pm – 14.00pm: Erich Brechbühl

14.00pm – 14.30pm: Anna Haas

14.30pm – 15.00pm: Thierry Blancpain

15.00pm – 15.30pm: Coffee break

15.30pm – 16.00pm: Johannes Breyer

16.00pm – 16.30pm: Ludovic Balland

16.30pm – 17.30pm: Panel discussion with Noël Leu, Xavier Erni, Ludovic Balland, Anna Hass, Erich Brechbühl; moderation by Robert Lzicar

17.30pm: Closing reception


Ludovic Balland established his studio Ludovic Balland Typography Cabinet in 2006. It focuses on book design, art direction and more generally on developing editorial design projects, while also realizing visual identities for international brands and cultural institutions. He has been a regular instructor at the ECAL (CH) for over 10 years and conducted several editorial and graphic design workshops in America and Europe. He is the recipient of three Swiss Federal Design Awards and has been recently granted with the prestigious Jan Tschichold award at the Most Beautiful Swiss Books Competition.

Thierry Blancpain was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1985. He graduated with a Bachelor in Visual Communication from the Bern University of the Arts (BUA) in 2010. He co-founded Grilli Type and Edition Grilli in 2009, and has worked as a freelance designer since 2006. He is teaching a course at the MA Communication Design program at BUA, and has recently moved to New York City.

Erich Brechbühl [Mixer] is a Lucerne-based independent graphic designer focused on poster and corporate design. He was born on the 3rd of October 1977, and grew up in Sempach, Switzerland. In 1990, at the age of 13, he started his career with a foundation of Mix Pictures, an organization for short film productions and cultural events. After a typography apprenticeship near Lucerne [1994-1998] he began an apprenticeship in graphic design at the studio of Niklaus Troxler in Willisau [1998-2002]. Then Erich moved to Germany where he did an internship at MetaDesign Berlin. Back in Lucerne he founded his own graphic design studio Mixer. Since 2007 he’s a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale [AGI]. 2009 he was co-founder of the poster festival Weltformat in Lucerne and started the regular exchange meeting for graphic designers called Show & Tell in 2012.

Johannes Breyer (1987) is a German / Chilean graphic designer based in Berlin. He studied in Zurich (CH) and worked for design studio NORM before graduating from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam (NL). Since then, he has been working on a variety of graphic design commissions for local or international, often cultural clients. Together with Fabian Harb, he is running the Swiss type design practice Dinamo. Next to offering retail typefaces (Favorit + Grow + Pareto + Prophet + Galapagos), they have been commissioned to design exclusive alphabets in use for Kunsthalle Zurich (CH), Warp records (UK), Yale Architecture (US), Manifesta 11 (CH) and the 9th Futurological Congress. From 2013–2014, Johannes has been a visiting teacher to the Estonian Academy of the Arts, Tallinn (with Fabian Harb). In 2016, he has been teaching two parallel courses in type design: at the University of the Arts (UDK) Berlin and at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG Offenbach).

Xavier Erni was born in 1983 in Geneva, Switzerland. He graduated with a bachelor in visual communication from The University of Arts and Design Geneva (HEAD). In 2010 he co-founded the graphic design studio Neo Neo with Thuy-An Hoang. He is the editor of Poster Tribune, a poster and graphic design magazine published twice a year since 2011. He is the owner of la Fonderie gallery located in Geneva and the curator of Print Program, an exhibition and archive program dedicated to graphic design and printed matter. He also teaches graphic design at the University of Art and design, Geneva (HEAD).

Anna Haas is an independent graphic designer and illustrator based in Zurich. After graduating from HSLU in 2007 she worked as a freelance illustrator in Berlin. From 2009 to 2011 she was a participant at Werkplaats Typorgrafie and received her Master in 2011. Having worked in Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, in 2011 she chose Zurich to set up her studio. The work of Anna Haas ranges from book design to visual identities, illustrations and poster design in the fields of art, culture and commerce. Her work was awarded with the “Swiss Design Award“, the “Grand Prix of the 27th International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno” and twice acknowledged by the competition the “Most Beautiful Swiss Books“. In 2014 she co-founded (and since then presides) the association Illustratoren Schweiz: provider of the platform, aiming to promote and connect Swiss illustrators. She teaches at Lucerne University of Applied Science and Arts (HSLU), department of visual communication.

Noël Leu was born 1984 in Lucerne, Switzerland. In 2010 he graduated with a Bachelor in Visual Communication from the Bern University of Arts. He now lives and works in the whole world as a graphic designer, teacher and curator. He co-founded Edition Grilli, an independent publishing house and Grilli Type, a digital type foundry.

Robert Lzicar is a communication designer, professor and researcher. He is based at the Bern University of the Arts, where he directs the MA Communication Design course, researchers at the Department of R+D Communication Design, and teaches design history. He earned a Master of Arts in Research on the Arts at the University of Bern, and is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of the Arts, Bern. He co-curated the exhibition “++41/1 Kulturelle Grafik aus Zürich” (2004), organized the symposium “Mapping Graphic Design History in Switzerland” (2014), co-edits a publication of the same name (to be published by Triest in September 2016) as well as co-coordinates the research project “Swiss Graphic Design and Typography Revisited”, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Sinergia programme from October 2016.

Alexander Tochilovsky is a graphic designer, curator and educator, with an emphasis on design history and typography. He graduated with a BFA from The Cooper Union, and holds an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He is currently the Curator of the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography and a Proportional-Time Associate Professor at the Cooper Union School of Art. He also teaches the history of typeface design at Type@Cooper, the postgraduate certificate program he co-founded in 2010.


Event photos below are used courtesy of The Cooper Union / Marget Long, Neo Neo, or Juan Kafka respectively (check individual photos in our Flickr album for details.

Event Photos