Design jury report 2019

Jonas Voegeli
Jonas Voegeli,
Chair of the design jury
Jirí Chmelik
Jirí Chmelik,
Co-chair of the design jury

On a voluntary basis, a team of 12 renowned designers devote two weeks to assessing one of the yearly rituals of the Swiss economy, namely annual reports.

Annual reporting is basically a requirement – at the behest of the stock market – for companies to showcase their accounts. And after Herculean efforts behind the scenes, companies duly come up with a snapshot, updated each year, ofwhere they currently stand. The “performance” respects certain formal norms in terms of mathematics, language – and design.

Visible and hidden aspects of design

In the case of annual reports, design incorporates certain visual aspects in either physical or digital form. These include the images, symbols and typefaces used as well as the physical feel (paper version) or the dynamism of formats used in the digital channel. Design is responsible for what is on the surface – the things that appeal to our senses – with visual and tactile aspects giving our human perception something to decode.

The surface is the expression of the hidden side of design as a creative process. Here, design is all about the structure of content and breaking things down – as well as the question of emphasis and how things are represented. The abstract notion of a “company” starts to assume a tangible form, created from the ground up.

The resulting creation consists of a structure based on certain formal, cultural conventions such as the letter from the Chairman, the group photograph showing the company management or the table setting out specific key figures. These conventional components, as well as how they are used and interpreted, give companies freedom to express their own individual image and create their own profile.

Design as intermediary

Good design emerges when a radical approach is taken to combining content and form on the one hand and internal structure and external appearance on the other. There is no hierarchy: “form follows function”, but “function follows form” too. The “what” (i.e. the nature) of the content is analysed by the designer. The results feed into the “how”, i.e. the choice of tools from a design perspective. The aim is to give the content a form – something to serve as intermediary between sender and recipient. The form takes account of the resources available to the sender and makes content available to the recipient in a way they can interpret. The level of “interpretability” will determine how easy it is to understand content clearly. For the observer, interpretability also means perceiving the function of the content in the wider context of communicative performance. If one were to compare communicative performance to putting on a play before an audience, one could liken elements of content to individual actors, each of whom has a role to play within the overall dramatic production.

But the communicative performance associated with annual reporting is not just a piece of theatre open to anyone. Rather, the performance takes place before an audience with a definite stake. The company reflects itself in its performance before those on the inside (employees, as direct stakeholders) and other parties with an interest (namely shareholders). But the audience is not content to sit quietly in their seats. Stakeholders, the press, analysts and the wider public interact with the performance given by the company. Opinions, meaning and common sense emerge from the process of social interaction.

Design as master of ceremonies

The participants in the ritual of annual reporting are the authors, the recipients – and the designers. The form isan integral part of the performance. Even a neutral design sets the scene and involves adopting a position. As a discipline, design is concerned with the possibilities offered by the use of form. Visual design has the power to mobilise and guide people. It can hold their hand and show them the way in. Design is responsible for shaping the communicative factor. The ritual of communication follows a definite timeline from the observer’s perspective: they are welcomed, told a bit about the company and then given access to the company's accounts. How long the performance lasts – hours or merely seconds – is down to the observer and how they interact with the communicative object. This is where sophisticated design solutions can influence the observer's mood and how long they stick around. In the ritual of communication, design plays the role of master of ceremonies.

The design jury recognises projects that use the creative power of design as a discipline.


Winners of the design prize
1st place: Zur Rose
2nd place: HIAG
3rd place: Clariant

Print category
1st place: Zur Rose
2nd place: Banque Pictet & Cie
3rd place: Clariant

Online category
1st place: Zur Rose
2nd place: HIAG
3rd place: Clariant

1st place: Novartis > improvement in ranking of 68 places
2nd place: Dufry > improvement in ranking of 62 places
3rd place: Liebherr > improvement in ranking of 61 places