How Studio Feixen turned one Swiss town into a vast graphic design exhibition

Another creative project, another city, another small sliver of silver lining to the eternal dark cloud of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Studio Feixen is based in Lucerne, Switzerland, and decided to cheers up its local area with a very different kind of advertising campaign: one created solely to bring a little colour and joy.

Unlike many other countries, Switzerland has a rich tradition of celebrating the art of the poster in spaces which most urban areas would devote entirely to campaigns trying to sell us something. Instead, its cities have pillars peppered throughout the streets that are solely devoted to cultural organisations.

"Like anywhere in the world, life stopped for some weeks, and all pillars went from being completely covered with information to white," says Studio Feixen founder Felix Pfäffli.

As such, he and his studio decided to bring back some colour into the empty streets of Lucerne to entertain people as they made their way to and from their homes and the government-sanctioned pop to the shops. How? By organising a city-wide exhibition of sorts, displaying brand new, bold poster works across Lucerne's pillars.

Studio Feixen created a total of 17 different poster pillars; and faced the very unusual challenge of having not only the blank page to contend with, but in a way, a blank city—something they could "paint all over," as he puts it. "We played around on all levels."

One pillar, for instance, shows a depiction of an ice-cream—an image created with the sole intention of making people smile. Another one was a huge comic that encouraged passers-by to stop and look a little closer; while there's a Jackson Pollock-Esque, spray-paint approach for another.

The idea, according to Studio Feixen, was to give people reason to pause and appreciate creativity now that they have the time and space to. "We're sure a lot of beautiful stuff was created during lockdown since people suddenly had the time to do what they always wanted to do. We also had some extra time and did exactly that!" says Pfäffli.

However, that's not to say it was all plain sailing: Feixen has its own pizzeria next to its studio, which was obviously forced to close to sit-down customers but instead found it could still be a success in a different way, by delivering pizzas to peoples homes. Feixen launched a small campaign and was overwhelmed by the kindness and support of its friends in making sue it could remain open. "They were ordering, delivering pizzas and sharing the message and within a short time, we had a well-working delivery system. It's good to see that you can count on your people during a difficult time," says Pfäffli.

While the pillar project might sound like a logistical nightmare, Pfäffli says it was "surprisingly easy to organise." He explains, "The people responsible for the pillars were very open. With one phone call, we had our favourite printer (Engelberger Druck AG) printing the posters for free.

"The corona lockdown clearly showed us something: during difficult times, you can count on your friends, and they help you; however they can."


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