70 Years German Design Council

Past – Present – Future

»Creating Community« Third German Design Debate

For 70 years now, the Frankfurt-based German Design Council Foundation has been contributing to communication, knowledge transfer, networking and promotion in all areas of the design process. Countless initiatives, concepts and formats have been created worldwide that connect design with business, science, culture and politics.

Third German Design Debate


The event was attended by collectives and personalities who bring about social and economic change through their work. They reflected on the core areas that the German Design Council has been involved with since its foundation - economy, culture, science and education - and presented their visions for a livable and fairer future. Cross-disciplinary work, the bundling of many competences and the constant growth of networks are examples of the paradigm shift that can be observed over the last few years: solutions, concepts and products that are created by collectives, in collaborations, in teams or through cooperations are experiencing an ever greater urgency, visibility and recognition.

With this debate, the German Design Council would like to focus on these developments and reveal the connecting and fundamental characteristics for change from the broad field of design.


In a highly concentrated programme, the Third German Design Debate succeeded in bringing together different perspectives, approaches and generations: The speakers raised questions, formulated theses, generated contradictions and created new perspectives that provided impetus for all players in the design and culture scene.

In a guest article, freelance author Oliver Herwig, who works for Neue Zürcher Zeitung, nomad, Architektur & Wohnen and Süddeutsche Zeitung, among others, summarises these theses and thoughts on the state of design.

to the article

Event programme

Greetings and opening by:
Prof. Mike Richter, President of the German Design Council
Lutz Dietzold, Managing Director of the German Design Council

Introductory Speech:
David Kusuma, President World Design Organization – The Importance of Design Towards a Better Tomorrow
Young Designers Circle, represented by Kimia Amir-Moazami, Muhammed Khan and Pedro Sáez Martínez

Design Debate
Hartmut Esslinger – Design for Industry
Francesca Bria – A Green and Digital Deal That Starts From Data Democracy and Citizens’ Participation
Sunny Dolat – Designing Identities: Building and Reclaiming Black African Narratives
John Maeda – Design and Artificial Intelligence: Hype? Or Hope?
Kate Crawford – Reality Machines: Politics of AI and Design

Third German Design Debate – CREATING COMMUNITY

It was a pleasure to host some of the most inspiring personalities of our time and to make these lectures available to the public!

Admission in the Paulskirche

The 70th anniversary celebration event took place on 22.06.2023.

Inspection of the hall

Thank you very much to all visitors, to all guests for being there. 250 people who listened with us and celebrated afterwards!

Opening speech

Prof. Mike Richter, President of the German Design Council, opened the festivities.


"The question of the role of design is one that has preoccupied the German Design Council since its foundation until today." And here, for Lutz Dietzold, Managing Director of the German Design Council, the foundation's mission remains clear: "... the work of the German Design Council has always been about a joint mission of politics and business, with the aim of positioning design as an independent discipline with significance for society as a whole." The Council deliberately wanted to set an example and also invited the very young generation - represented by the Young Designers Circle - to the Third German Design Debate. The so-called Generation Z, which is often criticised, has a very keen sense of the current challenges and is interested in constructive, participative cooperation across all generations, which does not tolerate any delay. Dietzold also sees design as an opportunity to meet the challenges of our time. One of the skills of design is not only to show possibilities, but also to model their feasibility. "... whether sustainability, artificial intelligence, identity beyond national sensitivities or circular economy - in my view, design is not only ideally prepared per se for the upcoming transformation processes, but it is urgently needed for them." The goal is to strengthen this importance and help shape it.

Rebecca Caroline Schmidt, Executive Director of the Research Centre "Normative Orders" at Goethe University, guided us through the evening.

The Importance of Design Towards a Better Tomorrow

Improving the world with design: With David Kusuma, President of the World Design Organization (WDO), we had a strong voice of industrial design. We also thank him for his commitment to Design for abetterworld. According to Kusuma, design has the power to improve the quality of life in the world. Whether German design is still at the forefront is increasingly being questioned and frequently discussed at the moment, such as by Hartmut Esslinger later in the evening. According to David Kusuma, Germany is still recognised worldwide for the design of its products, as well as for mechanical excellence. Design and functionality cannot be seen separately from each other. In his view, this also includes the task of designing products to be recyclable - "Design for Disassembly" ... to develop products that can be dismantled again.

"Not There Yet" - The perspectives of the next generation of designers

We were delighted to offer the young design generation a stage with the Young Designers Circle, with Kimia Amir-Moazami on site, Muhammed Khan and Pedro Sáez Martínez joining in. The YDC project "Not there Yet", a global research and conversation series that kicked off at this year's Berlin Design Week, was presented.

Exciting lectures

Despite heat, thunderstorm and almost tropical humidity, almost all guests keep on the ball until the end - good that we could still offer the fans from a past fair ...

Design and Artificial Intelligence: Hype? Or Hope?

John Maeda explained the new technology AI with the help of bread. In his thought-provoking speech, he questioned whether we are actually dealing with hype or justified hopes, given the highly topical discussion around it.

Drawing on Herbert Simon's Scissors of Rational Behavior, he challenged guests to evaluate the true potential of AI amidst the sharp edges of cognition and context. The American technologist's insights shed light on the quality of generative AI and its impact on our future.

Designing Identities: Building and Reclaiming Black African Narratives

From Sunny Dolat we learned about the importance of design for identity-building processes in African countries and that design goes far beyond a community-building force.

Dolat addressed the topic of "Design Identities: Building and Reclaiming Black African Narratives", which has received far too little attention in the global North, at the Third German Design Debate. The cultural producer, creative director and co-founder of "The Nest Collective" shed light on the loss of cultural heritage through Eurocentric imperialism and emphasised the importance of reclaiming African narratives. He addresses social and political issues in his work and is particularly concerned with Africa's place in global and cultural debates and dialogues. An important task, thank you for the insights on this!

Kimia Amir-Moazami, Sunny Dolat, Kate Crawford and John Maeda.

A green and digital deal that starts from data democracy and citizins' participation

In her comprehensive lecture, Francesca Bria pleaded for a just and innovative as well as participatory handling of data. She spoke at the Third German Design Debate about the Green and Digital Deal, data democracy and political participation. She highlighted the successes of the "Superblocks" project in Barcelona, underlining the importance of modern urbanity and mobility with people and the environment at the centre for a liveable future. Thank you for these valuable insights!

Design for Industry

Hartmut Esslinger discussed the conditions for success for the next generation of designers, drawing inspiration from the model that focuses on design for industry. His focus on "Design for Industry" aims to bridge the gap between academia and the challenges of the real professional world. The design pioneer envisions a transformative education system that equips young designers with direct interaction with industry and practical tools to create a better future - "Designers deserve a top education, at elite schools". At the same time, he sent strong criticism to the industry for treating design too step-motherly. Esslinger also presented current figures on the low salaries of designers and the decline in the number of start-ups in Frankfurt.

Reality Machines: Politics of AI and Design

Kate Crawford closed the lecture series with a critical contribution on artificial intelligence. Without rejecting it, she calls for a responsible and transparent approach to the new technology.

Crawford gave an impressive lecture on the topic of Reality Machines: Politics of AI and Design. AI not only changes the way we find information, write and produce images, but it also changes the perception of reality itself has profound social and political implications. She shared three important lessons with the guests of the Third German Design Debate:

1. You are training AI
2. Your style is captured
3. But you own nothing

Kate Crawford

David Kusuma in conversation with Rebecca Caroline Schmidt.

Hartmut Esslinger and Kate Crawford in conversation.

After the lectures in the rotunda of St Paul's Church. Francesca Bria, Kate Crowford and guests.

Francesca Bria

A Green and Digital Deal that starts from data democracy and citizens’ participation

Looking to the future, we face the twin transactions of the ecological and digital revolution as a matter of priority. Advances in technology, accelerated by the introduction of trends such as big data, artificial intelligence and supercomputing, have far-reaching implications for the future of our planet. If democratically governed and managed, these technologies have the potential to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, but they also present big risks.

Francesca Bria, as a former Chief Technology Officer of Barcelona and currently an Adviser to the City of Hamburg and to the EC President von der Leyen on the New European Bauhaus has pioneered the introduction of a new citizen contract for data and digital democracy, involving thousands of citizens in the formulation of the policies of the city of Barcelona. This kind of initiative encourages the development of technologies at the service of people and data sharing between businesses and communities, ensuring that data and Artificial Intelligence are governed in an ethical and democratic way to make more informed and effective public decisions.

Bria represents an innovation agenda that puts people and the environment at the center and is firmly rooted in our democratic principles and values, which is also at the core of the New European Bauhaus vision.

Speaker Kate Crawford - Credits: Cath Muscat
Kate Crawford

Reality Machines: The Politics of AI and Design

Generative AI is already used by millions of people worldwide. Not only does it change how people find information, write, and make images, it is shifting perceptions of reality itself – just as artificial perspective did in the 15th century. This comes with profound social and political implications, while also presenting a very real threat to the way that the work of art and design is valued.

Professor Kate Crawford is a leading international scholar of the social implications of artificial intelligence. She is a Research Professor at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles, a Senior Principal Researcher at MSR in New York, the inaugural Visiting Chair for AI and Justice at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Her latest book, Atlas of AI (Yale, 2021) won among other the Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology and was named one of the best books in 2021 by New Scientist and the Financial Times.

Over her twenty-year research career, she has also produced groundbreaking creative collaborations and visual investigations. Her project Anatomy of an AI System with Vladan Joler is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She has advised policy makers in the United Nations, the White House, and the European Parliament, and she currently leads the Knowing Machines Project, an international research collaboration that investigates the foundations of machine learning.

Speaker Sunny Dolat
Sunny Dolat

Designing Identities: Building and Reclaiming Black African Narratives

Using the work and practice of The Nest Collective as a point of departure for exploring the role of design in Africa—a continent deeply impacted by centuries of imperialism and colonization—where diverse cultures and histories intersect, the process of building and reclaiming identities through design takes on unique significance. From cultural representation to sustainable practices, social activism, and beyond, the session will delve into how design serves as a necessary tool for reclaiming agency, revitalizing cultural heritage, and redefining African identities on the global stage.

Sunny Dolat is an accomplished cultural producer, creative director, and fashion curator. As the co-founder of The Nest Collective, he actively promotes art and culture in Kenya. He challenges social and political issues and is particularly concerned in his work with Africa’s place in global and cultural debates and dialogues. Dolat has worked in various capacities within the creative and cultural industries in Eastern Africa and is active in numerous advisory bodies. He was serving as a creative strategy manager at HEVA Fund – Africa’s first creative business fund of its kind. Dolat's most recent achievement was his participation in the curatorial team that put together the Africa Fashion exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. With the Nest Collective he presentend an installation at the documenta 15.

Hartmut Esslinger

Design for Industry

Hartmut Esslinger dedicates his lecture to design education in Germany. Based on the fact that design is to be defined as a highly demanding profession for the creation of innovative, industrially manufactured physical products, digitally programmed, virtual software applications, AI, as well as media content and communication, and is currently at the focal point of industrial dynamics with all their current challenges, Esslinger elaborates in his lecture on the conditions for success for the next generation of designers.

Hartmut Esslinger is one of the most influential industrial designers worldwide, having founded the first global design agency, frog design, with his partner Patricia Roller in 1969. Today, it boasts well over 30 locations spread across multiple continents. He was the first designer to bring user-friendly and appealing high-touch-design into the world of digital communications and media technology.

He helped companies such as Louis Vuitton, Sony, and SAP to achieve global prominence with frog design and its hundreds of creative collaborators. His cooperation with Steve Jobs, beginning in 1982, set the course for Apple’s international success and signaled the beginning of an in-depth examination of design in the USA.

Speaker John Maeda - Credits: Kenny Kelly
John Maeda

Design and Artificial Intelligence: Hype? Or Hope?

Since the invention of electricity, railroads, telephones, automobiles, or more recently the personal computer, over-optimistic hype – along with a small dash of hope – has always accompanied new advancements in technology. Should we be hopeful, fearful, or "nah, this trend will be gone next year" about all the foundation model Al hype?

John Maeda is a leading American technologist in the field of product experience for consumers and enterprises. He was an early catalyst for generative art and computational design for commercial applications. Maeda was the first recipient of White House’s National Design Award for algorithmically-generated visualisations informed by data and AI.
He is currently serving as Vice President of Design and Artificial Intelligence at Microsoft, in addition to his further roles as book author, online influencer, and investor in diverse start-ups. Maeda has served previously as Chief Technology Officer at Everbridge; on the Sonos board of directors; as Data Visualization Lead at the MIT Media Lab.

Maeda’s presence in the following media sources comes in the form of writings, interviews, and talks: the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, TED, BBC, CNN, The Economist, Forbes, and USA Today. The honours that he has received include among others three honorary doctorate degrees, TIME Best Twitter 140, White House National Design Award, LinkedIn Top 10 US Influencer.

World Design Organization / David Kusuma

The Importance of Design Towards a Better Tomorrow

WDO President David Kusuma is the former Senior Vice President of Product Management & Innovation at Oregon Tool. Prior to this, David served as the Vice President of Research & Innovation and Vice President of Product Development Worldwide at Tupperware Brands Corporation. During his tenure, he was tasked with subverting conventional boundaries of innovation by developing new technologies and materials to create game-changing product solutions.

The World Design Organization is an international non-governmental organization that promotes the profession of industrial design and its ability to generate better products, systems, services, and experiences; better business and industry; and ultimately a better environment and society.

Young Design Circle / Kimia Amir-Moazami, Muhammed Khan, Pedro Sáez Martínez

Not There Yet


Moderation: Rebecca Schmidt

Rebecca Caroline Schmidt has been Managing Director of the Research Center “Normative Orders” at Goethe University since November 2012. In this capacity, she is responsible for the coordination of the scientific center and at the same time works at the interface between science, science management and knowledge transfer. In 2020, she also took over the administrative management of the newly founded research institute "Social Cohesion" and the administrative coordination of the cluster project "ConTrust – Trust with Conflict" of the State of Hesse.

A look back at 70 years of design culture

We take you on a short historical review of the history of the German Design Council.



>> Approval certificate for the establishment of the "Foundation for the Promotion of Shape Design". 1953. Source: Historisches Fotoarchiv Rat für Formgebung, Frankfurt am Main.

New European Bauhaus


New European Bauhaus

Since 2021, the German Design Council has been a partner of the "New European Bauhaus" initiative. This was launched by the European Commission and comprises around 50 members in 26 European countries. At the point of contact between art, culture, social inclusion, science and technology, the New European Bauhaus is to investigate how lifestyles can be shaped in the future with the aim of making Europe climate-neutral by 2050.

The German Design Council supports the development of the initiative together with the other official partners.

to the website
Institute for Design Research and Appliance


Institute for Design Research and Appliance

The Institute for Design Research and Appliance (IFDRA), based at the German Design Council, was founded in 2020 and sees itself as an interface between design, universities and companies. Its aim is to give a voice to practice-oriented design research in particular. In this sense, the institute is a mediator and advisor for the various representatives from theory (science, teaching) and economic practice (users, designers, entrepreneurs).

The IfDRA is headed by Stephan Ott.

to the website
Subsidiary in China


Subsidiary in China

In 2019, the German Design Council founded the subsidiary German Design Council in Shanghai, which, like the German Design Council itself, sees itself as a member network. The members exchange ideas at eye level, share their knowledge and promote the perception of design in China. In addition, they support the German members of the foundation and help them to achieve greater visibility in the Chinese market.

>> Lutz Dietzold, Managing Director of the German Design Council and Lei Wang, Chief Representative China at the Shenzhen Creative Design Week 2021

to the website
Second German Design Debate


Second German Design Debate

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the German Design Council, the Second German Design Debate took place. Internationally renowned personalities from business and design were invited:

Paola Antonelli, Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA
Dr. Annemarie Jaeggi, Director Bauhaus Archive/Museum of Design, Berlin
Stefan Sielaff, car designer, former Audi, Mercedes
Prof. Dr. Peter Pfeiffer, former head of design Daimler AG
Prof. Dr. Martin Roth †, museum director, cultural scientist and manager
Prof. Dr. Erik Spiekermann, designer, typographer
Prof. Stefan Dietz, industrial designer

>> Photo: Paola Antonelli

German Design Awards


Start: German Design Awards

The German Design Awards, the largest design competition of the German Design Council, has been awarded since 2012 and honours innovative products and projects whose market launch was no longer than five years ago. The label of this award is internationally recognised and meanwhile functions as a seal of quality and honours manufacturers and designers of the German and international design industry. The German Design Award is presented in the categories Excellent Communications Design, Excellent Product Design and Excellent Architecture.

Other awards of the German Design Council include the German Brand Award, German Innovation Award, one&twenty, Iconic Awards: Innovative Architecture and Innovative Interior. In addition, the German Design Council organises several other design competitions.

to the website
German Design Museum Foundation


German Design Museum Foundation

The Stiftung Deutsches Design Museum (SDDM) was established as a non-profit foundation with legal capacity under civil law in 2011. The foundation is based in Frankfurt am Main and its founder is the German Design Council.

The foundation runs comprehensive promotional and educational programmes to promote awareness of and interaction with design in a targeted and interdisciplinary manner.
To the website

to the website
International Council of Societies of Industrial Design


International Council of Societies of Industrial Design

For the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) Convention 2003, the German Design Council produced the multiple award-winning design film "Entwürfe - Communicating German Design". Renowned personalities from the field of design, including Konstantin Grcic, Erik Spiekermann and Rolf Fehlbaum, discuss their understanding of design.

>> Photo: Film "Entwürfe - Communicating German Design" conceived and realised by Oliver Hardt, Thomas Lauterberg and Stephan Ott.

First German Design Debate


First German Design Debate

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the German Design Council, the First German Design Debate took place. Well-known personalities from the world of science and design were invited:

Bazon Brock, Rolf Fehlbaum, Konstantin Grcic, Herbert H. Schultes, Erik Spiekermann, Peter Schreyer, Dieter Rams and Rezzo Schlauch.

>> Photo: Full house in the Paulskirche, at the First German Design Debate 2003.


Cultural Germany: open-minded and modern

Design as a bridge to the world: With the founding of the German Design Council, there is movement in the German design landscape. The German design mediator and consultant Mia Seeger is appointed Managing Director.

The first major project is participation in the X. Together with the architect Egon Eiermann, an exhibition is developed on an area of around 500 square metres that is intended to reintegrate the Federal Republic of Germany into the international community of states. The exhibition presents not only developments in industrial design, architecture and arts and crafts, but also works of the liberal arts.


>> Picture: X. Triennale Milan 1954. German Department, architect Egon Eiermann. Photography: Anton Stankowski, 1954. Courtesy of the Stankowski Foundation, Stuttgart. Source: Historisches Fotoarchiv Rat für Formgebung.


Across political borders

Designdialog - Seit seiner Gründung fördert der Rat für Formgebung den Designdialog über politische Grenzen hinweg. Die 1984 in Berlin (Ost) und Leipzig gezeigte Ausstellung "Design - Vordenken für Menschen" zeigte damals, wie groß das gegenseitige Interesse an einem deutsch-deutschen Designdialog war.

Nach dem Fall der Mauer 1989 folgten die Jahre der Wiedervereinigung. Deutschland wächst zusammen, langsam. Die Wanderausstellung "Formwende - Design in Deutschland" durch einige ostdeutsche Städte im Jahr 1991 verweist auf die unterschiedlichen Ansätze im Verständnis von Design im jahrzehntelang geteilten Deutschland.

>> Good Form, London, 1965. Foto: A. Bode, 1965. Quelle: Archiv des Rates für Formgebung, Designarchiv der Universität Brighton. Quelle: Historisches Fotoarchiv Rat für Formgebung.


Is design measurable?

768 Criteria - In the seventies, the evaluation of design is in the foreground. But according to which criteria and standards should products and communication be evaluated?

The then technical director of the German Design Council, Herbert Ohl, specially developed a sophisticated assessment procedure in which each submitted product is evaluated according to no less than 768 criteria. It is intended to be as objective and meaningful a system as possible for evaluating industrial products in particular, whose design the trade press is paying more attention to than ever before.

>> Federal President Walter Scheel and Federal Minister of Economics Dr. Hans Friderichs at the opening of the retrospective "Bundespreis Gute Form", 1975. Source: Tätigkeitsbericht 1975 / Publisher: German Design Council.


Design receives award

Open markets

"In the fifties, the German consumer durables industry had mainly produced for the domestic market and satisfied the huge pent-up demand. In the sixties, the markets opened up. The beginning of exports was a challenge and a test also for design." Dieter Rams (1988-1998 President of the German Design Council and since then honorary member).

In 1969, the "Bundespreis Gute Form" is awarded for the first time. Organised by the German Design Council and donated by the Federal Ministry of Economics to pay tribute to the growing importance of design.

>> Philipp Rosenthal presents the winner of the 1966 Rosenthal Studio Award for the Bofinger chair by Helmut Bätzner. Photography: Rosenthal. Source: Archive Beate Reichel.

German Design Council Signet Designs by Anton Stankowski


Signet designs by Anton Stankowski

The logo of the German Design Council can look back on a tradition almost as long as the institution itself: in 1960, it was developed by graphic designer Anton Stankowski.

"So I made a few drafts, both in one direction and in the other; and we then discussed together which one to push. I focused on the aspect that the Design Council had to work both internally and externally - hence these two directions of form." (Anton Stankowski)

>> Signet designs by Anton Stankowski. With the kind permission of the Stankowski Foundation, Stuttgart.


Dialogue and exchange

Hospitable - In 1957, under the patronage of Ludwig Erhard, the German Design Council launches an international multi-day trade congress for the first time. More than 200 participants gather to discuss the topics »Creating and disseminating good forms« and "The responsibility of business for design".

In the sixties - analogous to the social discourse - design and its tasks are also questioned. A debate begins about functionalism and the discipline's claim to science. At the same time, public interest in good design grows.

>> X. Triennale Milan 1954, German Department, architect Egon Eiermann. Photograph: Anton Stankowski, 1954. courtesy of the Stankowski Foundation, Stuttgart. Source: Historisches Fotoarchiv Rat für Formgebung.

X. Triennale Mailand 1954. Deutsche Abteilung, Architekt Egon Eiermann. Fotografie: Eberhard Tröger, 1954. Quelle: Historisches Fotoarchiv Rat für Formgebung.


X. Triennale Mailand

Design exhibitions around the world - In the coming decades, these will be among the core activities of the German Design Council.

>> X. Triennale Milan 1954. German section, architect Egon Eiermann. Photography: Eberhard Tröger. Source: Historisches Fotoarchiv Rat für Formgebung.