R. James Breiding
Profile Books, London, 2013, English
Nonfiction, Architecture; Nonfiction, Graphic Design; Nonfiction, Product/Industrial Design
6 x 9.2 inches, hardcover, 416 pages
ISBN: 9781846685866

From the Publisher. Why has Switzerland—a tiny, land-locked country with few natural advantages—become so successful for so long at so many things? In banking, pharmaceuticals, machinery, even textiles, Swiss companies rank alongside the biggest and most powerful global competitors. How did they get there? How do they continue to refresh themselves? Does the Swiss “Sonderfall” (special case) provide lessons others can learn and benefit from? Can the Swiss continue to perform in a hyper-competitive global economy?

Swiss Made offers answers to these and many other questions about the country as it describes the origins, structures and characteristics of the most important Swiss companies. The authors suggest success is due to a large degree to sound entrepreneurial thinking and an openness to new ideas. And they venture a surprising forecast on the country's ability to keep pace in an age of globalization.

R. James Breiding is founder and owner of Naissance Capital, a Zurich investment firm. For several years he wrote for The Economist on Swiss issues.

A Designers & Books Notable Design Book of 2013
On 1 book list
Phil Patton

The world-weary Orson Welles intones this line in The Third Man, Carol Reed’s classic 1949 film based on Graham Greene’s novel: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love—they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” But R. James Breiding’s Swiss Made shows that Switzerland produced much more than that, and besides, the cuckoo clock is a pretty big deal.

Clocks speak of a culture of time and punctuality and of timepiece making, from wristwatch to Swatch, that says much about modern life as well as about Switzerland. Swiss Made, which is subtitled “The Untold Story Behind Switzerland’s Success,” is one of the rare titles to put design in the context of business case studies and cultural economics.

It is full of fascinating stories of familiar products seen from unfamiliar angles. Switzerland is a land not only of hardware but also of software, pharmaceuticals, and prosthetic inventions of all sorts. The stories show the unanticipated ways in which ideas develop. Innovation in elevator design, for instance, at Schindler, came from such unexpected areas as scheduling cars with the so called “hall call” algorithm.

The tale of how the Nespresso coffee system, at first feared by executives as a potential cannibalizing rival to Nescafé instant coffee, took years to grow up at the edges of Nestlé’s empire. Developed at Nestlé’s branch in Japan, and promoted through clubs and shops there, it ended up a very different product before becoming a global success. Breiding explains that “Nespresso took more than a decade to make a dent in the market and Nestlé’s Chairman refused to put a machine in the board room because he was skeptical of its success. Now it is the most profitable among Nestlé’s 4,000 products.”

The source of innovation, Breiding argues, is the Swiss economic model. It has produced high average income without a disproportionate concentration of wealth at the top. Nestlé and Novartis may be familiar Swiss firms, but the book is also full of surprising examples of Swiss companies built on design, such as Logitech, the pioneer of the computer mouse and accessory design, established in 1982. (And of all the Swiss innovations, the cuckoo clock is not one: Breiding says it was developed in Germany.)

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