Wally Olins and the characters of design

There has been a wealth of tributes to Wally Olins in the past week or so, following his death on 14 April at the age of 83.

Wally Olins

Of these, I strongly suggest you read this piece by Wally’s former Wolff Olins colleague Philip Orwell, who went on to co-found Venturethree.

It’s one of the finest obituaries I’ve read recently, and one of the few that have made me laugh out loud – mainly for the anecdote about Wally on an elephant and his characterisation of a WO colleague as ‘quite disgusting actually. Probably goes for walks on Hampstead Heath with nothing on under his raincoat.’

What’s clear from people’s memories of Wally is that he was charming, engaging, hugely intelligent and often very challenging. The design industry is built on people like this.

Whenever anyone asks me what I enjoy most about my job, reporting on design, I always reply that it’s the people I get to meet.

It’s these interesting, engaging – sometimes infuriating people – that make the design industry such a pleasure to write about and, I hope, to work in.

As someone pointed out to me a few days ago ‘Wally would have said, “Get on with it! What’s wrong with you?”’.

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