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From newbie to expert – iF CEO Ralph Wiegmann publishes design book

"My Exciting Design Journey" is an entertaining memoir about 25 years of iF design journey.

It reads like the script of a movie. In 1995, a successful project consultant at the age of 38 awaits his next career step. But he is initially disillusioned. His boss leaves him with the daunting task of saving a heavily indebted design association from the crisis. Would it be a sorry day for design enthusiasts if this association no longer existed? This is the key question in the first chapter of Ralph Wiegmann’s recently published farewell book "My Exciting Design Journey". On 260 pages, the retiring CEO of iF highlights the last 25 years of brand positioning the iF DESIGN AWARD among the most prestigious design awards in the world. This memoir not only marks Ralph’s life’s work with great commitment and personal dedication, but the start of a different chapter at iF design since Uwe Cremering officially takes over Ralph’s position on 1 June 2021.

Ralph's design journey in pictures

Today Ralph looks back on 25 years of iF and 25 years of design, 75 iF award juries with more than 1,000 jurors, 75 iF award ceremonies and about 60 "by iF" juries.

Today Ralph looks back on 25 years of iF and 25 years of design, 75 iF award juries with more than 1,000 jurors, 75 iF award ceremonies and about 60 "by iF" juries.

In the first years, Ralph (far left) experienced the jury sessions as challenging. Some of the jury discussions went on until late at night. Among the jurors of the iF product design award 1996 were Horst Diener, Herbert Lindinger, Norbert Haugg, Andrée Putman, Robert Blaich and Ernst Raue (from left to right).

In the first years, Ralph (far left) experienced the jury sessions as challenging. Some of the jury discussions went on until late at night. Among the jurors of the iF product design award 1996 were Horst Diener, Herbert Lindinger, Norbert Haugg, Andrée Putman, Robert Blaich and Ernst Raue (from left to right).

Over the years Ralph's understanding of good design has been growing since he was able to follow discussions within the jury sessions. This picture was shot during the IF design award 1999 and it shows Ralph together with Sepp Heckmann (center), former CEO of Deutsche Messe AG, and Doris Schröder-Kopf (right), German politician and ex-wife of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Over the years Ralph's understanding of good design has been growing since he was able to follow discussions within the jury sessions. This picture was shot during the IF design award 1999 and it shows Ralph together with Sepp Heckmann (center), former CEO of Deutsche Messe AG, and Doris Schröder-Kopf (right), German politician and ex-wife of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

In 2001, almost 40 percent of the competition entries already came from abroad. The increasing internationality was also reflected in the jury - here Ralph is seen with the German Axel Thallemer (center) and the Swede Carl Gustav Magnusson (right).

In 2001, almost 40 percent of the competition entries already came from abroad. The increasing internationality was also reflected in the jury - here Ralph is seen with the German Axel Thallemer (center) and the Swede Carl Gustav Magnusson (right).

At the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design 2003 in Berlin, Ralph met Dieter Rams who, along with other design icons, answered questions from students at the session "Who, When, What, Why - Students Interview Grand Masters of Design".

At the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design 2003 in Berlin, Ralph met Dieter Rams who, along with other design icons, answered questions from students at the session "Who, When, What, Why - Students Interview Grand Masters of Design".

In 2004, the winners of the iF communication design award celebrated for the first time at the State Opera Hannover. The glamorous evening was hosted by Ralph together with the German TV presenter Bettina Kramer.

In 2004, the winners of the iF communication design award celebrated for the first time at the State Opera Hannover. The glamorous evening was hosted by Ralph together with the German TV presenter Bettina Kramer.

In August 2008, iF organized a common weekend with some grand masters of design at Lake Starnberg, Bavaria, Germany, It was a gratitude for their decades of work. Among the participants were Kurt Weidemann, Franco Clivio and Thomas Rempen (from left to right). Ralph (far right) hosted this event.

In August 2008, iF organized a common weekend with some grand masters of design at Lake Starnberg, Bavaria, Germany, It was a gratitude for their decades of work. Among the participants were Kurt Weidemann, Franco Clivio and Thomas Rempen (from left to right). Ralph (far right) hosted this event.

in 2011, iF recorded around 1200 entries to the iF communication award, which were judged by a total of 16 jury members. As if he had never done anything else - Ralph accompanied the jury sessions.

in 2011, iF recorded around 1200 entries to the iF communication award, which were judged by a total of 16 jury members. As if he had never done anything else - Ralph accompanied the jury sessions.

Ralph at the jury session of the iF product design award 2011 where 27 jurors decided on almost 2,800 design entries.

Ralph at the jury session of the iF product design award 2011 where 27 jurors decided on almost 2,800 design entries.

In February 2012, iF celebrated the first iF design award night at BMW Welt in Munich. Here is Ralph with the German TV presenter Frauke Ludowig at the party night following the award ceremony.

In February 2012, iF celebrated the first iF design award night at BMW Welt in Munich. Here is Ralph with the German TV presenter Frauke Ludowig at the party night following the award ceremony.

On his business trips, Ralph got to know countries, cultures and the different views on design topics. At the end of 2019, Ralph toured Asia and represented iF at the Chengdu International Home Design Award ceremony.

On his business trips, Ralph got to know countries, cultures and the different views on design topics. At the end of 2019, Ralph toured Asia and represented iF at the Chengdu International Home Design Award ceremony.

  • 01/11

Ralph transformed iF – what was in 1995 a small and insolvent, but highly respected association – into one of the market leaders of international design competitions. Starting out with a team of three employees, he built up an international, 50-member team with subsidiaries and representative offices around the world. "We have achieved a lot in the last two and a half decades", summarizes Ralph. "Design has come a long way in its economic and social importance. Today, all design disciplines are respected and valued all over the world."

Ralph takes stock of one-of-a-kind experiences and encounters with designers within the iF community. Starting as a newbie in the design world in the 1990s, Ralph absorbed the knowledge – ranging from the cultural role of design in various countries to the influence of design on society – and has become a design expert himself.

iF Sculptures

For the iF DESIGN AWARD 1997, Herbert Schultes created the iF sculpture which award winners still receive today. The first edition was made of heavy metal and was available in gold, silver and bronze. Today the sculpture is made of aluminium.

For the iF DESIGN AWARD 1997, Herbert Schultes created the iF sculpture which award winners still receive today. The first edition was made of heavy metal and was available in gold, silver and bronze. Today the sculpture is made of aluminium.

There was a short period of experimentation, during which other well-known designers created the sculpture. This one by Richard Sapper was used in 1998.

There was a short period of experimentation, during which other well-known designers created the sculpture. This one by Richard Sapper was used in 1998.

This sculpture was designed by Ettore Sottsass and used in 1999.

This sculpture was designed by Ettore Sottsass and used in 1999.

In 2000, iF engaged Dieter Rams for designing the sculptures.

In 2000, iF engaged Dieter Rams for designing the sculptures.

  • 01/04

The book is about an entertaining design journey where even memories of companions and friends, such as Nils Holger Moormann and Hartmut Esslinger, are included. Where Ralph further describes meetings with renowned individuals as Paloma Picasso, Dieter Rams and Chris Bangle. Moments of which Ralph could not talk about in the active role as managing director are also mentioned. For instance, you find out why a law firm of the “The Oscars” organizers threatened iF with an injunction.

"My Exciting Design Journey" is a limited edition and not available in stores (ISBN 978-3-00-069257-4). Here you can either read the book online or download the PDF for free (download button below the book).

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(published in May 2021)