Patrick Wilson – a friend as well as a client

My mate Patrick Wilson died last Wednesday. I guess that, as managing director of Thrislington Cubicles, he was technically a client too, but I’d prefer to think that for more than 20 years we were mates who helped each other, doing stuff we liked doing and having a giggle along the way.

An architect by training, being the boss of Thrislington Cubicles wasn’t really a natural fit for him, but he was pragmatic and honest. ’People will always need to go to the loo, but the loos don’t need to be crap,’ he would say. The architectural eye made him obsessive about ’the detail, the line and the finish’. In the 1990s, while on a product brochure shoot at the factory, Patrick was on his knees polishing a mark on the floor that was invisible to the rest of us. He was using his shirt-tails. It was 2am. Then, months of hard work later and literally about to sign off the artwork he had second thoughts about the size. ’There’s not enough space for the product to breathe, we should make the brochure bigger,’ he said. The artworker walked out. Patrick was right and it won tons of awards (including the Design Business Association Grand Prix, several Design Week awards, including Hall of Fame, and D&AD).

We had an odd idea for a Christmas calendar that was something to do with fluffy kittens, but he called and said, ’I’ve decided it’s just too poncey, people won’t get it. Let’s do something else.’ The deadline was days away but the new idea (’spend a penny’) was simpler and more instinctive. It won a D&AD award and a place in the permanent collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The calendar series (pictured) ran for 12 fun years and, I believe, is probably the most successful long-term series in D&AD’s history. He was exhausting. A human Tasmanian Devil, a whirlwind of energy hard to ignore. He commanded any room he was in. He would say what he felt with a directness (and maybe a few profanities) that some could find too much to handle, but that was their loss. He was just passionate.

He was well-read, sharp-humoured and canny. He bought Zaha Hadid’s first UK structure (her Serpentine Pavilion) because he loved her work and saw its significance before many could say her name.

I believe his natural skill at marketing was simply because he understood and loved people – not just his audience, but the people around him. He liked getting the best out of them and watching them grow. He liked honest and hard-working people, and hated attitude or bureaucracy. His trust in people close to him was absolute, and he inspired huge loyalty. He stepped out of Thrislington last year to enjoy his other great loves – his family, travel, skiing and, of course, his beloved Everton FC. Maybe slowing down was his undoing. Whirlwinds can’t last forever, but this one had a huge impact on those close to him, and left the world a better place.

Greg Quinton, Creative partner, The Partners, Smithfield, London EC1

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