The industry was once frequented by larger-than-life characters with the resilience common to all creative people to push on regardless of the odds. One such is Rodney Fitch, arguably one of the founding fathers of the design business as we know it. He makes it into the Hot 50 this year on the strength of a lifetime’s commitment, though ventures he has in the pipeline might well merit a reappearance in the future.
As is the case with many of his peers, Fitch’s career has been chequered. He has enjoyed more than one incarnation with the global consultancy that bears his name and has seen it develop from being an independent group purely concerned with retail design and interiors, of which he is an acknowledged expert, to having a broader branding offer within the WPP stable.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Fitch’s departure as chairman late last year heralds a new era for him.
Details of his plans are slowly emerging, but he has set his sights on an international role in design education that will break existing moulds – something he has fostered through his long-standing involvement with the University of the Arts London and other institutions. The focus of his involvement will be his beloved retail design, but taught in a very different way to the current model.
For now we applaud his importance to design to date, recognised in the award of a CBE in 1990. We look forward, though, to the next chapter.