Patrick Burgoyne, my colleague over at Creative Review magazine, wrote a fantastic piece in the current issue about his experiences chairing a design conference in India – Designyatra 09. The event, which took place in Mumbai in September, not only featured some luminaries of the design world but also two of the biggest names in the history of branding agencies – Michael Wolff and Wally Olins. The pair set up the consultancy Wolff Olins together and their combined experience includes working with clients like BT, Renault and Volkswagen.
“The two of them appeared on stage together at the end of day three to speak for the first time about their relationship which, with Olins chivvying Wolff along to get ready, was curiously like that of parent and child. Asked (by me as compere) what drove him mad about Wolff, Olins’ list was long and detailed, the gist of which was that Wolff was totally disorganised and undisciplined.
Olins related various examples, from the time that Wolff wouldn’t get out of his hotel bed to meet a client as he was feeling unwell (“Michael, get down here now. I’m not your bloody mother!”) to the time that, after weeks of work and the client having signed a major identity project off, Wolff decided he didn’t like it after all and refused to let the client buy it (“I was apoplectic,” Olins remembered).”
As you can see, the reunion sounds absolutely hilarious. Burgoyne continues:
“The pair disagreed on much. Wolff doubted that Wolff Olins had really changed anything in corporate life while Olins was more positive: Olins was still proud of the company that neither has anything to do with any more, while Wolff worried over its ‘arrogance’. Both, however, were strongly critical about the branding industry today, its use of jargon and cynicism.”
It’s a really interesting insight into the minds, characters and attitudes of two men who have really shaped the design and branding industries over the last few decades.