Glenn Tutssel – “never underestimate the power of a drawing”

Glenn Tutssel started his design career in 1973 at Lock Petterson. After working as creative director at Michael Peters he founded consultancy Tutssels, which joined forces with Lambie-Nairn in 1997 to form The Brand Union.

Tutssel left his role as London chairman of Brand Union at the end of last year to set up consultancy Brand Inspiration. He has also been appointed executive creative director at Bristol-based Taxi Studio.

We talk to him about his five decades in the design industry and find out what’s next. 

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Image by Leon Tutssel

When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

My brother’s friend Philip Davies was at Cardiff Art College studying Graphic Design and I loved all the work he was doing with type and image. It coincided with my art teacher Douglas Sutton, in Wales, who was previously a commercial artist, believing in me. I had practised Judo (we were both Black Belts) with him not realising I would one day be mentored by him. You only need one person to believe in you to succeed. 

What was your first job? 

David Lock of Lock Pettersen taught me at the London College of Printing. I freelanced for them in the last year of my BA course and joined them when I graduated. They were great typographers so I learnt a lot. I designed corporate brochures and annual reports for clients like Esso.  

How would you describe what you currently do?

Having set up Brand Inspiration in January I want to concentrate on two things. One is to do great work on my own projects unshackled from shareholders and bonus pools. Great work brings financial success rather than thinking about money before creativity. The second is to leave a legacy of creativity both in my own work and with those I believe in. I am very proud to have worked with people like Garrick Hamm, Bruce Duckworth and Mark Girvan and now I want to mentor Taxi Studio to be masters of excellence. I am in the business of the big idea beautifully crafted.

What has been the biggest change in design since you started?

The Apple Mac. Technology has made design a commodity if driven by the wrong hands. In the right hands it can achieve greatness quicker. But never underestimate the power of a drawing. I show my clients drawings where I have concentrated on solving the problem with ideas not by superficial slick Mac printouts. 

What is your favourite project, that you’ve worked on?

Sorry, typical designer answer, but there are three projects. First: the work I did for Guiness’s sponsorship of the rugby World Cup. The idea of the rugby ball instead of the traditional shamrock in the top of the pint was a simple idea. Second: the design of Peroni, as it has become a classic. I crafted every element of the label and sales are still strong. Third: the creation of the Penderyn Welsh Whisky brand. As a Welshman it’s an honour to do work for a home-grown business that has become an international success. 

What is your favourite project, that you haven’t worked on?

I always wanted to redesign Gordon’s Gin and Martini. In fact I did some exploratory work on Gordon’s many years ago but it never came to fruition. Martini has lost its heart and I want to put it back! 

What was your biggest mistake?

Not going to work in New York for Michael Peters Group. It would have given me more perspective. And not setting up my own business sooner to call the shots. 

What is your greatest ambition?

To leave a creative legacy amongst my peers and be respected for my work. 

Who is the most inspirational person you have worked with?

Michael Peters got the very best out of me by driving me very hard. He could see potential in every project as a creative opportunity. Michael Wolff has been a massive influence on me recently as he sees the solution to problems so clearly. 

What piece of advice would you give to people starting out in design?

Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. It’s all about the experience and time you put in and the reward you get out. Concentrate on doing great work, this business is not a job but a vocation.

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