Wilhelm Wagenfeld was born in Bremen, Germany in 1900. He was one of the most important and influential of all German industrial designers.
Wilhelm Wagenfeld served an apprenticeship as a silversmith from 1914 in the design office of the silverware factory Koch & Bergfeld in his hometown Bremen. Between 1916 and 1919 he attended the Bremen Kunstgewerbeschule. From 1919 to 1922 Wagenfeld was a scholarship student at the Fachschule für Edelmetalle at Hanau Drawing Academy. In 1922/1923 Wilhelm Wagenfeld stayed in Bremen and Worpswede, became friends with Heinrich Vogeler and Bernhard Hoetger, and became enthusiastic about Expressionism. Wagenfeld was enrolled at the Bauhaus in Weimar from 1923 to 1935, where his teachers at the metalworking workshop were Moholy-Nagy and Christian Dell.
In 1926 Wagenfeld did not accompany the Bauhaus to Dessau but instead became an assistant at the metals workshop at the Staatliche Bauhochschule Weimar. He was director of the Bauhochschule from 1928 until it closed in 1930.
From 1931 to 1935 Wilhelm Wagenfeld worked for the Jena glassworks Schott & Gen., creating heat-resistant household glass, including a glass tea service (1931). Then Wagenfeld worked for the Vereinigte Lausitzer Glaswerke (VLG) Weißwasser. He aimed his designs increasingly at mass production. In 1938 Wagenfeld created the stackable glass service "Kubus" for VLG. Wagenfeld also worked as a freelancer for Hutschenreuther, Fürstenberg, and Rosenthal. From 1947 until 1949 Wilhelm Wagenfeld was a professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin, subsequently teaching at numerous academies and institutes.
In 1949 Wilhelm Wagenfeld moved to Stuttgart, where he became artistic director for metal and glass at the Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik (WMF). Wilhelm Wagenfeld also had consultancy contracts with Pott/Solingen, Rosenthal/Selb (porcelain and glass), and Peill & Putzler/Düren (lighting, later also goblets).
In 1954 Wilhelm Wagenfeld founded his own design office in Stuttgart, the "Werkstatt Wagenfeld", which he guided until 1978. He remained active and interested in the design community until his death in 1990.
His work for WMF was Wilhelm Wagenfeld's most all-embracing as well as productive undertaking.
Bremen has honoured him with his own museum, the Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus, and his works are collected by most important museums including the New Yorker Museum of Modern Art.