Reading Time: 5 min | May 2023

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70 years of iF Design - from the roots of mid-century German design into the future

Uniting designers and industry across generations | Independent and fair | Social and sustainable from Day One | Innovative and transformative | Poised for growth

  • It started at Hannover Messe with a novel cooperation between industry and designers, led by visionaries with a belief in the transformative power of design

  • When iF Design was founded in 1953, Wilhelm Wagenfeld already stressed the “social and cultural significance” of design – aspects that inform iF Design’s work to this day in our support for students [iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD] and social projects [iF SOCIAL IMPACT PRIZE]

  • The future is bright with international expansion, a deeper focus on sustainability, and a more international jury than ever with gender parity

Uniting designers and industry across generations

Over the decades, iF Design has grown continually and built relationships with notable designers of the time – Dieter Rams, Michele de Lucchi, Konstantin Grcic, Richard Sapper, and Alberto Alessi to name just a few. At the same time, the organization has long served as a partner to industry. Many notable international companies have trusted iF Design for decades, entering their creative best year for year to compete in the iF DESIGN AWARD.

Influential designers in iF's time of origin:

Finn Juhl

Finn Juhl

It was in the 1950’s that design found an international market. After the Second World War, the US economy grew rapidly, building a comfortable middle class, with disposable income and at least in part cultivated tastes. Companies rushed to meet the demand: Edgar Kaufmann Jr., director of the New York Museum of Modern Art, offered upcoming young Europeans like Finn Juhl a break into the American market.

Raymond Loewy

Raymond Loewy

Raymond Loewy, himself a French immigré and ‘the father of industrial design’, was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, the New Yorker, and a few years later, Spiegel. His autobiography Never Leave Well Enough Alone (the German title is Hässlichkeit verkauft sich schlecht or Ugliness doesn’t sell) was read by a generation of industrial designers. None other than luminary Peter Raacke cites the book as an influence.

Independent and fair

iF Design prides itself on its independence and fairness in judging. The criteria for determining iF DESIGN AWARD winners have changed naturally throughout the last seven decades, from the informal early juries to Herbert Lindinger’s criteria of the 1970s down to the iF Jury Scorecard of today.

Awarded design classics from the first years of iF Design

BRAUN 300 DE LUXE - electric dry shaver
iF product design award 1954

Click here for our article "Braun Celebrates 100 Years of Innovative and Timeless Design"
Braun-Radio-Phono-Kombination SK4 - Radio/Phonograph combination
Design: Dieter Rams
iF product design award 1957
WMF: Salz- 3541 und Pfefferstreuer 3518 - Salt pot and pepper pot
Design: Wilhelm Wagenfeld
iF product design award 1954
Rosenthal Form 2000 - Crockery
Design: Raymond Loewy
iF product design award 1954
Wilhelm Wagenfeld

Social and sustainable from Day One

For the first-ever iF Design yearbook, Bauhaus icon Wilhelm Wagenfeld called for products that are “cheap enough for the poor and good enough for the rich”. Well-made goods are not only more desirable, they last longer and can be recycled, repaired or reused. Before sustainability was a trend, it played a role at iF Design.

iF Design has sponsored young talent with the iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD for 20 years. Students from around the world participate free of charge, and every year iF Design awards the best projects with 50,000 euros in prize money. The iF SOCIAL IMPACT PRIZE provides a platform and support for projects that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Participation is free, and EUR 100,000 is awarded to the best submissions each year.

Innovative and transformative

70 years of tradition haven’t prevented iF Design from innovating – quite the contrary. In 2022, the company underwent a comprehensive digital transformation, reorganizing over 50,000 datasets relating to award-winning entries, creatives and more. During the Covid-19 pandemic, iF Design introduced a hybrid jury method that allows judging from remote locations.

70 years of if Design: iF Final Jury 2023 in Berlin

Indeed, the iF Design Jury is perhaps the most international of any major design award, and we make it a point to balance women and men in all our juries (Image: iF Final Jury 2023 in Berlin).

iF Design Award Night 2023


After many years at the Munich Creative Design Week, the iF Design Awards Night moved to Berlin in 2022, the new creative capital of design in Europe. In 2023, the iF DESIGN AWARDS NIGHT will be held at the famous Friedrichstadt-Palast for the second time.

What were the big milestones for iF?


Poised for growth

iF Design has grown steadily over the last 70 years. Starting in 2001 and the founding of iF International Forum Design GmbH, the organization has expanded internationally, founding a subsidiary in Taiwan in 2007 and a second subsidiary in Korea in 2014. iF Design also has offices in Shenzhen and Chengdu as well as representative offices in Brazil, Japan, Netherlands, Turkey, Spain and Italy. In 2023, iF Design plans to open an office in New York, linking European and North American design.

Every year, companies and creatives from some 60 countries around the world submit nearly 11,000 entries. In 2023 as iF Design turns 70, we would like to thank 21,317 creative participants from 113 countries who have taken part in the iF DESIGN AWARD so far, and to the 1,025 international jurors for their impartiality and the care they take with every decision.

We express our heartfelt thanks to all participants and jurors – past and present – and to all friends of iF Design!

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