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Call for contributions: "For the sake of creative freedom: Graphic design for the cultural sector"

A creative and critical Exchange

Deadline for submission: Thursday 15 June 2023
Date of Research Exchange: Friday 1 December 2023, 9:00–18:00, Bern Academy of the Arts HKB, Switzerland
Format: abstract of max. 600 words specifying the contents and format of the contribution;
short biographical profile; via this form
More information:

The practice of and discourse on graphic design in Switzerland has undergone a paradigm shift from the 1980s onwards. In the 1950s and 1960s graphic design reached international recognition and commercial expansion under the label “Swiss style”. In the following decades, the attention of many practitioners, but also experts (curators, journalists and juries) turned away from design as a pure service for the industrial sector and moved towards cultural commissions on a local, national and international level, as well as self-directed projects. Instead of aiming for maximum financial return, they chose their commissions according to whether these promised them creative freedom and whether they contributed to the profiling of their portfolio in alignment with their new definition of the profession as a lifestyle. Designers sometimes refer to this practice as “cultural graphic design”. This phenomenon is analysed by the organisers of this research workshop in the framework of the SNSF-funded project “The Cultural Turn in Swiss Graphic Design 1980–2020”.

Call for critical contributions
The aim of this research exchange is to open up a collaborative process leading to contributions which will be published in a format to be determined collectively at the end of the day. We aim to explore the shift of graphic design towards the cultural sector not only in Switzerland, but also internationally in the time frame from 1980 to 2020, though contributions concerning shifts away from the cultural sector, critical approaches, different time frames and geographical areas are equally interesting. The research exchange seeks contributions from a wide range of perspectives including, but not limited to:

  • Graphic design within (counter-)cultural sector between 1980–2020 in Switzerland and internationally;
  • Graphic design practices that consciously preferred the cultural sector over the commercial sector even before the 1980s;
  • The relationship between design and cultural politics;
  • The role played by institutions (museums, government, awards and schools) in supporting and extending “cultural graphic design”;
  • The relation between capitalism, the creative industries and “cultural graphic design” including, but not limited to:
  • The hierarchisation of cultural design as the “right” kind of design;
  • Precarisation;
  • The incorporation by capitalism of artist critique;
  • The rise of the creativity dispositif;
  • Designers working within the cultural context which are not usually included in the canon, or which are excluded as members of so-called minor scenes (e.g. linguistic and cultural minorities);
  • The role of digital technologies and social media in the advent of “cultural graphic design”.

This one-day open forum is a sharing platform open to contributions that do not necessarily take the form of finished papers, and can encompass work in progress, different methodological approaches, exciting primary sources, presentations, round table conversations, panel discussions and other formats.


  • Graphic design for the cultural sector
  • Graphic design profession and lifestyle
  • Counterculture
  • Graphic design discourse
  • Creative industries
  • Self-initiated graphic design
  • Late capitalism
  • Self-exploitation