Design is an important consideration for almost everyone and therefore has a major commercial role to play. Manufacturers are therefore doing their utmost to come up with products that will appeal to consumers. In addition to consumer perception, professional evalutaion is also important, as it not only evaluates the product, but also distinguishes it and adds further value to it. But how an award is given? What criteria are taken into account? How is the jury made up? These and similar questions were put to one of the world’s most prestigious design organisations, the IF DESIGN AWARD. We spoke to Uwe Cremering, CEO of iF International Forum Design GmbH.
Mr. Cremering, as CEO, what is your role in the organization?
First of all, I have to manage a company with 23 employees in Germany and another 22 employees in our local offices around the world. The focus for the next few years will certainly be on digital transformation, iF branding and organizing the iF DESIGN AWARD to increase the quality that is expected and appreciated by our global participants. Another part of my job is networking. We see ourselves as part of a global design community. We bring people together, organize panel discussions and push design topics wherever it makes sense.
The iF DESIGN AWARD was founded almost 70 years ago. Today it is one of the most successful design awards in the world. What has changed the most since it was first established?
Judging products or projects and giving a stage to exceptional design is definitely the same task iF Design had in the last decades. The change is evident in the categories. Originally, iF Design was focused on products and product design. Today, other disciplines such as UI, UX, Communication and Service design are added to cover holistic product solutions. The other opportunity is certainly the size of the jury and the number of companies participating. The third major change is the use of IT systems such as CMS, CRM, databases, IT security systems, payment systems etc. Our goal today is to make participation as easy as possible and this is based on a powerful IT infrastructure.
How big is the iF DESIGN AWARD today?
As you said, we are certainly one of the most prestigious design awards in the world with a unique history, a high reputation and a clear approach of neutrality and independence. In numbers: This year we had more than 9,500 submitted projects for the iF DESIGN AWARD 2021 and a jury of about 100 international jury members to organize. There were also 10,000 submissions annually for our iF DESIGN TALENT AWARD and another 1,000 registered projects for the iF SOCIAL IMPACT PRIZE. All in all, 2020 was the most successful iF Design year ever. That made us really happy, especially in times when the pandemic has a big impact on almost everything. And 2021 also looks very promising.
Approximately how many products and projects have been iF awarded from the beginning until today?
That is indeed an interesting question, and we checked our systems last week. In total, 48,211 submitted designs have won an iF DESIGN AWARD in the last 67 years (!) All these projects can still be found in our systems. And it’s really an interesting task to dig through the design journeys in categories like cameras or kitchen appliances or for brands like SIEMENS, BOSCH, BRAUN etc.
Which products can be submitted for the iF DESIGN AWARD in the discipline product design ?
A wide range of products can be submitted to the iF DESIGN AWARD – from medical products, consumer electronics, machines, computers, household goods to cars and building technology. In total we have 23 categories in the product design discipline and the general rule is: if you have a product, we have a category which fits. Ask us, if you are not sure.
“This year we had more than 9,500 submitted projects for the iF DESIGN AWARD 2021 and a jury of about 100 international jury members to organize. There were also 10,000 submissions annually for our iF DESIGN TALENT AWARD and another 1,000 registered projects for the iF SOCIAL IMPACT PRIZE.”
Uwe Cremering, CEO of iF International Forum Design GmbH
What are the requirements to be able to participate? Does the product have to be commercially available or can it also be a prototype? Are there any disqualifying factors?
Products should not be older than two years at the time of registration to the award. In the product design discipline all projects submitted have to be available on the market or have to be launched within the year of the award. We accept prototypes, if this project fulfills the criteria named above. We do have a discipline called „Professional Concepts” for visionary projects, which are still in a concept stage. Other than the things named above, there are not additional requirements for a product to fulfill in order to be able to register for the iF DESIGN AWARD.
Is a specific product documentation required for participation?
Not really. The basic registration can be done in a few minutes. Then there are a few questions to be answered and a short project summary and criteria description has to be submitted. The participants also have the option to upload videos, pdfs and links to give the jury members additional material to evaluate the project.
What does it cost to take part in the competition?
One aspect of the iF DESIGN AWARD that is highly appreciated by our participants is the transparency of costs. We only have a registration fee, a jury fee and a winners fee. Everything is easy to understand. The registration fee is divided into three phases, the early bird phase (EUR 250 per project), the regular phase (EUR 350 per project) and late entry phase (EUR 450 EURO per project).
How is the jury composed? How many members are there, are they permanent or does the jury change from year to year?
We currently have about 100 jurors each year. Neutrality and independence of the jury are a high asset for the success of the iF DESIGN AWARD. For this reason, we change our jurors every year. Not completely, of course, but with the intention of having fresh and qualified experts every year. So the jury is a mix of newcomers and experienced designers, highly international, gender balanced and of course highly recognised experts in their various fields.
What is required to become a jury member? How is this decided?
The jurors have to fit in the framework described above. We constantly scout the international design scene for new potential jurors by visiting events, agencies and companies and closely monitoring international publications. We also get recommendations from existing or former jury members and even some applications. A selection of potential members for a specific jury is made by the organisational team, reviewed by myself and then submitted to the board of iF Design, which usualy follows our recommendation.
How is the jury process carried out in practice? Does everyone get the chance to try the product or do all members test together?
We have a two step process. The first jury session is the Online Preselection. Each project is independently evaluated online by three experts using our custom made iF Jury Tool by giving scores for the five iF criteria for good design. This results in a final average score for each project. The top 50% projects with the highest scores qualify for the Final Jury. The individual scores of each juror as well as the averages scores and of course the overall result is shared with the participants. All projects which qualified for the Final Jury are evaluated on site by the same experts in Berlin about two months later. There are intensive discussions and the scores from the Online Preselection can be adjusted. The winners of the iF DESIGN AWARD as well as the 75 iF gold award winners – the best projects of the award – are then chosen based on the final scores given.
Which evaluation criteria are taken into account for products? Is there a predefined, precise evaluation system?
iF Design has developed five main criteria which can be used to evaluate projects from all creative disciplines: idea, form, function, diffentiation, impact. Each main criterium has detailed sub-criteria to consider which can be differently interpreted according to which discipline is judged. All details of the evaluation process and the criteria are described in detail on our website.
Are there discussions between the jury members? If so, what decides?
Discussion is part of the Online Preselection and fundamental in the Final Jury on site. These discussions can be very intense. In the Online Preselection each juror gives his or her individual scores – the final score of the Online Preseleciton is then calculated. In the Final Jury the three members of the jury group judging one specific category have to reach a consensus on the individual scores for each criterium.
Can you say that the iF DESIGN AWARD not only value design, but also shape design trends?
That would be nice, but I would rather say we reflect design trends and give them a platform. To some extend there might be an amplifiying effect, when we do this, but it would be too much to say, we shape trends. But they surely become visible at iF.
Is there a limit to how long an award-winning product can use the recognition in its communication?
The limit is the product life cycle. So if a product is on the market for 10 years, the iF DESIGN AWARD logo can be used for the entire 10 years. If there are significant changes to the product, the registration process must start again.
Is there an award-winning product that is really special to you?
There are so many amazing projects each year, so it is really hard to name one. The Lilium all-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft awarded with the iF gold award this year for example really shows how design can have an impact on our future, so this really impressed me.
Registrations to the iF DESIGN AWARD 2022 are possible until 19 November 2021. (Until 15 October: every second submission is free.)
More information: www.ifworlddesignguide.com