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Meeting My Design Heroes - Michael Wolff


Its spring in Cape Town and this time of year is filled with colour as the wonderful varieties of flower open up to display an impressive palette. People travel from far and wide to visit the Westcoast national park where for a limited time (1 month) the impressive bloom is in its full beauty. I get a lot of my colour ideas from nature and this is such a fantastic time of year to discover brilliant combinations.

I will always remember a presentation by renown brand designer Michael Wolff where he explains how we often overlook the rich source of colour that nature offers and how we shouldn't just rely on our Pantone swatch books. He told the story of his business partner, the late Wally Olins, returning from a meeting to find the entire Wolff Olins design team away from their desks. When eventually the designers return, a furious Olins demands an explanation as to their whereabouts. To his surprise his partner Wolff explains that he took the whole team to Hyde Park for the afternoon to study the colour of leaves. I could only imagine the sparks that followed! I love this story as it really illustrates the difference between the two partners; the business executive and the intellectual designer.

I have a huge admiration for Michael Wolff. At University I still remember reading about the incredible work of Wolff Olins. The branding for BP, Shell, Bovis and Mitsubishi to name just a few.

I have had the great pleasure of meeting Michael twice. He is someone that I look up to and I often suggest to those who I mentor to find out more about. His views on design and design thinking are inspirational. Don't take my word for it. Click here to see for yourself. I guarantee you will be inspired!

I recently wrote a post about the time when I met my design hero, the late Massimo Vignelli. Incredibly, the first time I met Michael Wolff was in that very same week back in 2011. Below is what I wrote the day after I met another of my design heroes, Michael Wolff...
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I was very honored and fortunate to meet two of my design hero's Micheal Wolff and Massimo Vignelli.

I will never forget meeting Micheal Wolff. He was wearing a sharp black suit with a pair of bright blue Crocs. He was so warm, and unassuming. I asked if I could shake his hand for being a huge influence. While shaking my hand, with a smile on his face, the man that I had studied at University, enjoyed the work of for so many years and one of the worlds most iconic knowledge's on design and brand replies, "What me."

That meeting will always stay with me. That "What me", really sums up the man that Michael Wolff is. For all his achievements he is still unassuming, gentle, incredibly alert and interested. His insight, intellect and youthful energy blew me away! If you've not heard Micheal speak on the Three Muscles of Creativity then your missing out. (Ive added it to my list of presentations by Michael). We also spoke about one of his quotes that I love, "I look at a shop door and it says closed, and I think, why doesn't it say open tomorrow at 8.30.”

His presentation was incredible, speaking about brand perception. I remember him asking, could it be possible to make an object like a wheel chair have the same appeal as a top of the range bycicle?


I think the thing that stays with me the most though was just what a lovely down to earth guy he was... Oh and the blue Crocs of course.
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