Trained as a teacher, Manfred Werfel – who died last week aged 68 – brought that vocation’s commitment to the organization now known as WAN-Ifra.
He had studied at the Gutenberg University in Mainz, but was seduced by print and its emerging technologies, an enthusiasm he was to share throughout his life.
What WAN-Ifra’s Dean Roper calls his “professional career” began at Linotype in 1984 just as desktop publishing was about to happen – remember Apple’s ‘1984’ Superbowl and TV commercial – and at the cusp of a print technology revolution.
This was the evolution from Linotronics to Adobe’s DTP-enabling Postscript, and the merger of Allied-owned Linotype with Hell, and Werfel used it well.
He joined newspaper research-orientated IFRA in 1996, and when Boris Fuchs retired as research director three years later, he was the person to succeed him. By the time the group – formally the INCA-FIEJ Research Association – had completed its merger with the World Association of Newspapers (previously FIEJ) and had seen the launch of Newsplex and the International Color Quality Club competition, and Manfred Werfel’s commitments to it became global. Post-merger in 2009 he became interim deputy chief executive and took responsibility for managing the technology-focussed World Publishing Expo and World News Media Congress events.
The World Printers Forum was his particular oeuvre, with its round of conferences and committees – I remember a meeting on the Piccadilly Line tube out of Heathrow, on which he was acompanied by fellow WPF board members – and his technical authority carried through after his retirement to events such as last October’s WAN-Ifra’s European Printers Summit (pictured).
Having served briefly as joint chief of WAN-Ifra – with Larry Kilman and Thomas Jacob – after the departure of chief executive Christoph Riess in 2012, Werfel continued as director of its World Printers Forum until his retirement, handing over to Ingi Ólafsson in 2019.
Even then, as I’ve mentioned he was the “go-to” authority that Ólafsson called on to lead the EPS “un-conference” in Frankfurt last year. I recall challenging him once on an assertion he made that too many “old men” had leading roles in the industry; nothing personal, but at seven years my junior, he was clearly too young to go.
He is survived by his wife, Silvia, and their two sons Felix and Fabian.
WAN-Ifra has put together a tribute page. Colleagues praised his “insatiable curiosity, keen sense of service, listening, professionalism and rigour” (Vincent Peyrègne); “a reference and a model of professionalism” (Fernando De Yarza López-Madrazo); “a wonderful human being who had a professional approach in every aspect” (Jacob Mathew, Malayala Manorama); “a good friend and a thorough professional” (DD Purkayastha, ABP India).