A new book charts Michael Wolff’s 60 years in the branding game

Produced by NB Studio’s independent publishing house, the biography charts the projects that made the celebrated designer.

4 October 2023

Michael Wolff has joined forces with NB Studio and writer Tom Lynham for Leap before you look, a book that catalogues the designer’s ideas, work and life story, in his own words.

Designed by NB and published by the studio’s new publishing arm Library Street, the book clocks in at 340 pages long. Much of the text is broken down into projects, like his work for Audi after its merger with VW, plus Apple Records, Camden and Royal Mail. There’s surprising stories to be found, like Michael’s consultancy work for Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup – which has been recognised by Guinness World Records as having the world’s oldest branding. Michael advised the brand to stick with its legacy packaging when a rebrand was on the table.

According to Tom, other lesser known stories include Michael’s personal journey. “Michael’s traumatic experience of being a child refugee and growing up during the war had a profound influence on his counterintuitive creativity. He had to reinvent himself as he went along and this has been a brilliant foundation for consulting with clients.”

There’s also insights from the people Michael met and worked with along the way. Design legend John Sorrell (co-founder of the London Design Festival and the Sorrell Foundation) writes: “Michael is the only person to give me a full-time job – twice. My second job for Michael was at Wolff Olins in the early seventies when they were in their prime, meeting every project with intelligent analysis, compelling solutions and amazing design. The place buzzed with a feeling of possibility and excitement – the same feeling Michael generates today for everyone he works with.”


Leap before you look – The Zen of Branding (Copyright © Library Street, 2023)

Since forming Wolff Olins in 1965, Michael has had a hand in shaping how we think about branding, moving beyond helping a company to deliver a product or service and tapping into the cultural element that shapes its impact.

“Michael’s approach and creative thinking is driven by emotion,” Tom says. “His mind is always in the mind of the audience – what will this story or image or word or typeface or combination of colours make someone feel. Much of his work does not just happen on the surface but is supported by a deep understanding of what makes people tick.”

The book is currently fundraising via Kickstarter, with publishing being a challenging side of the project according to the team at NB. “We had no idea that for this kind of book, publishers want to be paid upfront,” says Tom. “So forming the Library Street imprint and going down the Kickstarter route was unexpected, but has also given it an extra zest, because people who are pledging to buy the book become part of the process.”

GalleryLeap before you look – The Zen of Branding (Copyright © Library Street, 2023)

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Leap before you look – The Zen of Branding (Copyright © Library Street, 2023)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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