Pictures take you places – The Zurich Museum of Design

Posted on September 10, 2010


I must admit that I’ve been in general quite lax about visiting museums here in Zurich, mainly because I’m not really that much of a fan, especially when they simply feature stuff hanging off a wall (I take full responsibility of how ignorant this statement sounds). Still, museum Philistine that I am, I cannot say I didn’t love the Museum of Design.  While being original but not in the least pretentious, it surprises the visitor with fresh themes that keep changing during the course of the year.

When last winter I found myself seeking shelter within this modern building (from a bitterly cold Zurich day, as is normal during winter time), I was welcomed into the world of modern design by two distinct exhibitions. The first one, entitled ‘global design’ traced a comprehensive history of the connection between globalisation and design:

“Beginning with global networking in the fields of communication, mobility, production, trade and capital, the focal themes are the presentation of globalization in relationship to regionalism, the container as the primary element of globalization, cultural transfer and global trends.” (Quoted from the Museum’s website).


The second exhibition hosted on the first floor of the building was entitled ‘Paradise Switzerland’, and dealt with a topic very close to my own heart and interests, that is, the way that Switzerland built itself into a country riddled with stereotypes and clichés through a century of mountain-cow-lakes-and-lambs advertising posters, as it were. Through time however, the jolly and idyllic depictions which found their way into Swiss ads also started including political messages of hate. The poster shown above of the Muslim woman covered from head to toe, juxtaposed onto a background of dark minarets built over the iconic Swiss flag, was plastered around the country when it was time to vote yes or no to the minaret ban, and yes in the end it was. What the exhibition did not display was an even more disturbing propaganda poster designed by the SVP which showed three white sheep grazing over the again distinctive Swiss flag, with one of them rather leisurely kicking off it a lone black one. Targeting the Swiss’ fear concerning the fact that too many immigrants or ‘outsiders’ (with a particular focus on skin colour, of course) were being allowed to enter the country, this poster was also allowed to be plastered across the nation. I hope the lighter-toned cows in Swiss fields won’t start doing the same with their dark counterparts anytime soon… 


-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @

Posted in: Zurich