iF Design Awards 2023: the design awards that improve our lives

The iF Design Award is one of the most coveted accolades in the world of design, with nearly 11,000 entries from 56 countries. Every year since 1954, the world’s oldest independent design organization, iF International Forum Design, based in Hannover (Germany), organizes the iF Design Award competition.

This international award recognizes excellence in the design of products and projects across nine disciplines and 82 categories. The evaluation is carried out by a jury of independent experts, which for the 2023 edition consisted of 88 professionals from 20 countries. They assess the design achievements based on five specific criteria: General design concept; Aesthetic appeal and manufacturing quality; Product functionality; Market value-added; Impact on society and the environment.

That’s why we wanted to interview Annegret Wulf-Pippig, Director of Corporate Communication at iF International Forum Design.

It’s the 70th anniversary of iF Design this year. Congratulations! What was it like to reach this great milestone?

It is of course very special to look back on seven decades! Especially when they are so gratifying :)

“We have been able to establish our iF Design Award as one of the most important and largest design awards in the world.”

And we have our loyal participants to thank for that! Since 1954, we have over 21,000 participants from 113 nations! And well over 1,000 international jurors from around the world who have supported us for 70 years. We are super proud!

What was special about this edition and what would you say were the highlights?

The mood and atmosphere at our this year’s awards ceremony in Berlin’s Friedrichstadt-Palast was unique! Over 1,500 guests from 42 countries celebrated with us the winners of the iF Design Award 2023 and our 70th anniversary. It was the design happening of the year!

How many participants took part in the iF DESIGN AWARD and from how many countries? Which were the categories that were most in demand?

Almost 11,000 entries from 56 nations were sent into the race for the iF Design Award 2023. Achievements in all design disciplines have been honored: product, packaging, communication and service design, architecture and interior design as well as user experience (UX), user interface (UI) and professional concept. In total, the disciplines are divided into 82 different categories.

“The discipline most in demand is product design. This is due to our roots.”

Also, this year the iF Design Trend Report 2023 that includes sixmegatrends and their influence on design, in a document of over 220 pages: Connectivity, Silver Society, Health, Urbanization, Mobility and Neo Ecology, is available. What can you tell us about that? Until when will it be available?

We have published the iiF Design Trend Report for the second time – together with the Zukunftsinstitut Frankfurt. The report is aimed at designers, in-house design teams and product development teams worldwide. It explains what influence social trends have on design developments. For each trend, there are numerous products and services that exemplify which strategies and solution approaches are decisive for today’s challenges. The iF Design Trend Report is available until the next issue is published :)

The quality of the winning projects is extraordinary. Was it difficult to select the projects? What were the main parameters? And who was on the panel of judges this year?

Yes, it’s not so easy to find out the best and most innovative designs from 11,000 entries. However, we have found an optimal solution for this: Our iF jury works in two stages – in an online preselection, the best 50 percent of the submissions are first filtered out. In the second jury stage, which takes place physically in Berlin, each entry is then evaluated on site.

The perfect basis for this is our iF Jury Tool, which our jurors work with. Our core, the iF Jury Panel, which is gender-balanced and diverse with a total of 133 independent, international design experts, judges on the basis of firmly established, updated evaluation criteria: idea, form, function, differentiation and impact. These have been developed together with a team of international design experts.

What role doesnthe iF Design Award play once the awards have been given to the winners?

Our central goal is, of course, to give our award winners the best possible exposure worldwide.

To this end, we publish all awards on our iF Design Website, clearly visible and with no time limit. And we then promote these with an international marketing media campaign using a six-figure euro amount. In addition, we naturally activate all press and PR channels to spread the word about our award winners as widely as possible.

Furthermore, the award-winning designs are presented in the iF Daily Design App, which can be downloaded free of charge. Of course, every winner should also use the world-renowned iF Design label in their own communications. The award is always an excellent hook in communications.

What has been the role of AI in this edition?

AI has been playing a role in the submissions for the iF Design Award for several years now. The refrigerator, for example, has long since ceased to be a simple hardware product. It comes with an app, with algorithms, with software, with artificial intelligence that reads the needs of the user.

Doesn’t almost every smart product have a measurable amount of artificial intelligence? We have already adapted our iF Design Award well to this – because when we put together our jury, we make sure to fill it with experts who can judge these entries effectively.

How do you see the future of Design?

“The future of design is very closely linked to the issue of sustainability.”

Sustainability is part of the iF design evaluation criteria and the overall evaluation of entries. Actually, it has been a part of iF Design history since the very beginning. Even Bauhaus pioneer Wilhelm Wagenfeld emphasized in his opening letter to iF Design in 1953 that well-made products are not only more desirable, but also last longer and can be recycled, repaired or reused. So, there is always a certain sense of sustainability inherent in many quality designs. But we want to do more.

This year, we started by appointing two experienced sustainability experts to the jury. They didn’t judge the entries in terms of sustainability, but helped our jurors decide whether or not an entry really met certain criteria. Especially with regard to possible “greenwashing”.

“Sometimes companies claim to be sustainable, but are they really? And what does that mean? At what levels exactly and to what extent? This is a very complex topic.”

Our intention in the future is to ask our participants for the right information about replaceable parts, energy efficiency, amount of materials used etc., in order to have a good basis for evaluation.

Of course, for iF Design, this is not just a big button and we have the solution. We see it more as a 3-4 year journey that we would like to walk together with our participants, our jurors and a group of dedicated external experts.

Following this recent edition,what are you working on at the moment?

“Expansion is one of the buzzwords. We have just opened an iF Design Subsidiary in New York.”

Our digital transformation, which has been underway for two years, is not yet complete.

We are currently looking at the topic of education and introducing the brand for the new generation. We want to give our participants even better feedback so that the design quality keeps getting better.

The topic of sustainability is also the focus of our current further developments.

We would like to take this opportunity to appeal to designers, creatives and engineers to participate in the next edition. What would you say to encourage them to sign up?

Whether startup or studio, company or freelance – everyone involved in the creation and development of innovative designs and projects has the chance to have their design quality reviewed by international experts by participating in the iF Design Award.

Moreover, international attention is guaranteed: for the team, for the project and for the design! Even more so if you manage to win the iF Design Award Gold! Each entry receives individual feedback.

In general, winning the seal is always an excellent marketing tool to stand out in the market. But last but not least: it is super easy to participate in the iF Design Award. It only takes a few minutes and the registration is done online! For the details you then have time until November!

We also wanted to chat with some of the winners, to get a closer look at their projects and impressions:

Project: FAQ YOU – An educational (R)evolution by Alexander Müsgens

What is the differentiating value of your project?

FAQ YOU raises sexual education to eye level and makes a previously embarrassing school topic finally cheerful and normal. The questions are the most frequently asked ones and have been the same for decades – so let’s get rid of the blushes of shame and start dealing with the topic in a light-hearted manner that it deserves despite all its seriousness.

What needs were you trying to cover?

“Although the presence of sexuality in media and society is higher than ever, education in schools is still old-fashioned and shameful.”

FAQ YOU satisfies this need by creating a platform that takes its audience seriously and really helps.

What target audience are you addressing?

Our target group are mainly teenagers and young adults who have only insufficient possibilities to educate themselves sexually and to whom we want to provide a serious alternative to the existing possibilities – especially on the net.

What has winning this year’s anniversary edition of the iF Design Award meant to you?

“The iF Design Award Gold is always an accolade.”

To hold one’s own in such a high-profile environment and to receive not only recognition but also attention for such an important topic fills everyone involved with joy and spurs us on to continue.

Project: ConceptsBreath Hydrogen Monitor by Hiroko Ezure

What is the differentiating value of your project?

To date, a stool examination has been the only way to test intestinal flora. Nowadays, research is in progress on breath hydrogen measurement as healthy intestinal flora produce hydrogen. However, breath hydrogen measurement requires large equipment, making it necessary to go to the hospital or a test organization to take an intestinal flora test. The newly developed ultra-small low-power-consumption chip makes it possible to realize a compact breath hydrogen monitor, which enables daily monitoring of your intestinal flora at home.

“Our aim is to make intestinal flora monitoring a lifestyle habit just like facial cleansing and oral care.”

What needs were you trying to cover?

As the average life expectancy continues to increase, there is a growing demand to extend healthy life expectancy and to live longer and healthier lives. To meet these demands, we respond to them with a system that enables simple and routine monitoring of the intestinal environment without resorting to labor-intensive stool tests or extensive examinations at hospitals.

What target audience are you addressing?

The intended target audience includes general health-conscious users, hospitals and other medical institutions, manufacturers and brands of health foods, vitamins, and supplements, as well as national, government, and municipal governments that operate health insurance programs for their citizens.

What has winning this year’s anniversary edition of the iF Design Award meant to you?

I am very proud that this project has received a globally prestigious award in terms of design. As a designer, I am very happy that we were able to gain a wide range of empathy by redrawing a new technology that is often explained only in terms of technical data and specifications into a use case that is easy for many people to understand and incorporate into their daily lives.

I have already had a career as a product designer for about 30 years, and this award has strengthened my desire to continue to grow further while engaging in friendly competition with young designers.

Dialogue / Bridgestone Soft Robot Hand  by Hitoshi Yasui

What is the differentiating value of your project?

“The design enables a new way of building relationship between robot and humans in more friendly and enjoyable way.”

We realize it with our unique technology, rubber artificial muscle and the combination with seamless knit. Sleek movement by the muscle and corrugated skin by seamless knit give the robot something like facial expression when it moves or change its shape.

This feature makes people easier to interact or understand how robot “feels” or telling.

What needs were you trying to cover?

While AI is evolving significantly having “flexibility” to adapt complex situation of real life or work place, hardware remain inflexible and not fully catch up.

Our design with soft robotics technology gives the hardware outstanding flexibility to be able to adapt various situation with its flexibility of the body and diverse motion.

The way the robot handle the diverse situation by changing its shape or various way of contacting surrounding object is as if it is communicating, like a dialogue.

What target audience are you addressing?

Our main audience is all the people who are exploring a different possibility of the future which robots are more natural being existing just next to people.

What has winning this year’s anniversary edition of the iF Design Award meant to you?

“Winning award proved that our new design and concept has a good potential to attract people.”

We believe this winning award was one of the best way for people or the world to make first encounter with such a unique robot which humans never met before.

Project: Metamorphosis – transforming a violin into tea by Sandra Uffen

What is the differentiating value of your project?

The really special thing about “Metamorphosis” is that we have united supposedly contrary worlds into one functioning communicative idea. The creative craziness and detail-loving implementation with which we turned a violin into a tea not only secured us the attention of completely different target groups, it also enabled Sven Helbig, the musician, and Hälssen & Lyon, the tea company, to achieve maximum impact with minimal budget.

And, last but not least: the project made a strong point for the product of both parties: for the artistic message of Sven Helbig‘s album and for the innovative power of Hälssen & Lyon tea creations.

What needs were you trying to cover?

At the end of the pandemic, with a new album but still closed concert halls, Sven Helbig faced the challenge of making himself heard by a niche audience in the truest sense of the word. And to do so without a budget and with a relevant reach. Our long-standing client Hälssen & Lyon, on the other hand, has to prove time and again to its global business partners that it is the first port of call for exceptional premium teas. And we as an creative agency have the task of using creativity and effective synergies where it is possible and makes sense.

“For us, this project is a prime example of creative efficiency outside the box.”

What target audience are you addressing?

As mentioned before: We had the most contrasting target groups imaginable. Fans of modern classical music and international trade partners for tea with the most diverse cultural backgrounds.

“Through the uniqueness of the story and the haptic and sensory appeal of the limited versions of the music album and tea, we were able to win many enthusiastic fans on both sides.”

What has winning this year’s anniversary edition of the iF Design Award meant to you?

For us, the iF Design Award is prototypical of international design excellence. Some of the world’s best-known brands, including many that have personally inspired us for many years with their product and communication ideas, proudly display their iF Award on their packaging. We are now allowed to join them for the second time with a very special product and an even more special idea. That is a great feeling and makes us very happy.

Project: Der Neue Derzbachhof by Stefan Höglmaier

What is the differentiating value of your project?

“The identity of farm and community, which results from the oldest farm in Munich, was transferred to the new building and the living concept.”

What needs were you trying to cover?

Bringing the qualities of the countryside such as lots of natural space, growing your own vegetables, large common areas into the urban context.

What target audience are you addressing?

People who are passionate about architecture and see added value in a good neighborhood.

What has winning this year’s anniversary edition of the iF Design Award meant to you?

This is a great award for the project and the whole team of Euroboden and of course for our architects Peter Haimerl and raumstation.

Project: Sonos Packaging System Refresh by Michelle Enright

What is the differentiating value of your project?

We believe that we’ve been able to design a packaging system that has a distinct point of view. We designed the Sonos packaging using a proprietary uncoated paper that felt premium and is FSC certified.

“Using this paper enabled us to remove the traditional PP Matte Lamination across our packaging portfolio.”

What needs were you trying to cover?

We were focused on addressing our customers’ requests to create premium, sustainable packaging. We wanted to make certain our packaging refresh holistically tied to our brand and product experiences.

Going deep in the development of the system included exploration and testing, then refinement of our illustration style, color application, visual grid system, and print techniques.

Each product in our portfolio is a unique form factor so we wanted to ensure that the visual design elements worked well for each package yet tied together as a system.

What target audience are you addressing?

We are targeting our current and new audience. We have taken care to test our system with our customers throughout development to confirm we we were meeting or exceeding their expectations.

What has winning this year’s anniversary edition of the iF Design Award meant to you?

It has been a tremendous honor for our Sonos Packaging teams to be recognized by iF Awards jurors and peers for the amazing work they’ve been able to accomplish.

(*) Images provided by iF Design Awards.



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