Often cited as one of the most expensive cities in the world, Zürich’s creative potential gets a bad reputation. But amongst the hedge-fund millionaires and the more traditional aspects of life in Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich is also the country’s epicenter for art, media and technology. Inspired by somewhere so ripe with innovative potential, we asked local expert, Luc Benyon, to show us around. Follow Luc for more inspiration and tips.
[ Creative Agencies ]
An independently owned advertising agency that gave its first breath in 2002, walker Zürich is sometimes called ‘the smallest agency in the world’ owing to the fact it never has more than ten employees working at the same time. Despite its size, walker Zürich has won numerous awards for its outstanding creative work, and it is internationally recognised as one the top advertising agencies in the world.
AHOY Studios is a design agency with a difference, dedicated to delivering culturally and socially relevant campaigns that impact the greater good of the world. Over 80% of AHOY’s output over the last 16 years has been for Non-Profit Organisations, making them a pleasant wake-up call for creative leaders hoping to make the world a better place.
The new player on the Swiss advertising scene, Heimat opened an office in Zürich this year and with it hopes of continuing on from the company’s success over the border in Germany. The anthropomorphic household items in the agency’s inaugural campaign for Siroop this year, brought a welcome splash of colour to Zürich and the city is excited to see what’s next.
[ Illustration ]
Technically a graphic designer, Josh Schaub’s distinctive designs grab your attention thanks to their brutalist and playful infographic style. Occasionally collaborating with the equally brilliant Stephanie Cuerel, this creative duo produce joyful, animated works of design delight.
Graphic design, illustration, typography…it seems there’s nothing Felix Pfaffli can’t do. He’s already created covers for the New York Times Magazine, made T-Shirts for musician Chet Faker and designed an app for Nike Basketball. Thanks to his bold use of colours, funny illustrations and multi-disciplinary approach we think he’s someone you’ll be seeing a lot more of as well - he’s one of the most fascinating graphic artists operating anywhere in the world.
The ‘enfants terrible’ of Zürich’s street art scene, the two brothers who make up OneTruth are more than just graffiti artists. Having created huge murals in some of the city’s greyer areas, the siblings have since moved on to canvas and sculpture work, but they still run street-art workshops for youths and corporates from their vibrant studio on the west side of town.
[ Typography ]
Currently flying the flag for Swiss typography, Grilli Type are the name on every designer’s lips at the moment. Having just launched GT America with a lot of fanfare, these guys are seriously raising their international profile. Their typefaces are precise and contemporary, yet steeped in Swiss tradition.
Dafi Kuhne is the man behind Babyinktwice’s letterpress printmaking, which combines contemporary graphic design with old techniques such as four-letterpress proofs & production presses from the 1960s, old lead and wood type. His type-led designs are executed with real craft and he’s just produced a book full of his beautiful prints with Lars Müller Publishers.
Influenced by renaissance styles as much as by 20th century Swiss type, Ueli Kaufmann combines traditionalism and rationalism to produce typefaces for logotypes, corporate & cultural identities, websites, posters, flyers and books. His fascination with stories, histories, cultures and subcultures is evident throughout all of his work.
[ Fashion ]
Purveyors of the kind of backpacks grown-ups wear, Qwstion mix an ethical approach to manufacturing and materials with a design ethos primed to answer to the everyday needs of the modern environment.
THE pioneers of recycled fashion, Freitag was founded by two brothers back in 1993 and has since upcycled tarpaulin into all manner of bags, clothing and other accessories. Their flagship store is a landmark in its own right, dominating the old industrial area of Hardbrücke with a stack of shipping containers which won a D&AD Award when it first opened ten years ago. Inside you’ll find the full range of Freitag items, no two of which are the same.
Selfnation is an online bespoke jean retailer and one of Zürich’s startup success stories. The team tailor-make beautiful jeans (and chinos) based on your body shape, helped by their online configurator tool which asks you to input your size and colour preferences. In less than 10 minutes you’ve ordered some perfect-fit trousers direct to your door.
[ Publications ]
THE publication you’ll be sure to find in every café, design shop or bar, Reportagen is something of a Swiss institution. Celebrating its five year anniversary this month, the magazine has retained its iconic front cover design on every issue. Inside, writers report first-hand on global politics and events. A challenging topic base and eye-catching graphics make it a must read.
Nieves has published work from the likes of Spike Jonze and Thurston Moore in its limited edition, one-off zines. Their logo is a friendly ghost reading a book, it adorns the side of their small shop and it’s the coolest tote bag in town.
A legendary figure amongst graphic designers, Lars Müller’s publishing house is now based in Zürich’s excellent design museum and is famous for its regular series of Swiss poster designers as well as tomes such as Helvetica.
[ To Shop ]
This collective of magazine nerds began in 2015 and they now run a small shop in the Hardbrücke area of town packed with over 100 titles. They share the space with a vegetarian fashion brand, and it’s the best place to bring independent magazine titles to Zürich.
This shop is a must visit for creative hands, selling high-quality stationery, Sheffield scissors, beautiful books and THE most expensive pencils you’re ever likely to find. Fabrikat shares its space with the Trace Gallery which is run by a collective of graphic designers.
Newly opened in the up-and-coming Lochergut neighbourhood, Stories hosts the work of a variety of designers and includes furniture made from surfboards, clothes made from recycled materials and bags made from safety vests. The shop is staffed by the designers themselves and it frequently hosts events and workshops in everything from bow-tie tying to bookbinding.
[ To Eat/Drink ]
Frau Gerold’s Garden is a huge beer garden surrounded by shipping containers and warehouses. In the summer you’ll find it packed with trestle tables and benches as well as herbs and vegetables which are used on the big open BBQ. In the winter the whole place is transformed into a huge, cosy fondue tent where melted cheese is the only thing on the menu.
This tiny bistro is decked out in mismatched china, ancient chairs and obscure ornaments. Come Sunday it’s the go-to place to experience Zürich’s legendary brunch scene. Try the homemade lemonade to wash down your coddled eggs and be sure to turn the light in the toilets on - a vintage radio comes to life while you pee!
Something of a creative mecca, Rote Fabrik stands proudly just outside of town on the shores of Lake Zürich. It’s a converted factory, which now houses a ramshackle bar and a lakeside beer garden. In the evenings you’ll find reggae and rock gigs, whilst at the weekend it’s a clubbing destination for all ages. The sprawling complex even includes a theatre and artists studios and recent events have included a vintage computer festival, kitchen battles and a three-day techno rave.
If you have any recommendations for places for future guides, connect with me here and let us know!