Graphic designer Michael Wolff wins the lifetime achievement award at this year’s London Design Festival

As the London Design Festival gets underway for another year, the man who tries to bring “humanness” to corporate branding is among the annual medal winners.

8 September 2021

Each year, the London Design Festival aims to recognise contributions made by leading design figures and emerging talents to the British creative industry with four awards. They are the London Design Medal, Design Innovation Medal, Emerging Design Medal and Lifetime Achievement Medal.

Today, the festival organisers have announced that Michael Wolff, the British graphic designer and co-founder of Wolff Olins brand consultancy studio, is the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Lifetime Achievement Medal honours a significant and fundamental contribution to the design industry over the course of a career. Michael Wolff is a trailblazing British graphic designer. Over the course of more than six decades, he’s become a mainstay in design’s role in society.

After his time as an architecture student, Wolff worked in product and interior design before co-founding Wolff Olins with Wally Olins in 1965. Together, they essentially brought forward the notion of what we now call branding. When he was “probably 22,” he wanted to escape “what seemed to me to be scant humour in architecture and abundant zealousness about steel, glass and concrete structures,” he mentioned in an interview with Johnson Banks. None of this, it seemed to him, was about the lives of “ordinary human beings”. He’s still baffled, he says, by office blocks and the “sensory deprivation that rules in most of the offices in them.”

Wit, imagination, art and humanism make up what Wolff Olins hopes to bring to corporate identity. A pioneer in the field of graphic design, Wolff has worked at both a grassroots level with emerging designers and communities, and huge companies too. Wolff is also a patron of the Inclusive Design Challenge with the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the RCA and a member of the government sponsored Design and Technology Alliance against Crime.

He’s said that he feels “deeply honoured” to have received this lifetime achievement award. “Few of us got to where we are alone and so I owe this award to all of those who’ve supported me. Without my partners, my many colleagues, as well as some of my clients, many of whom also had the qualities, talents and abilities I lacked, this award could not have found me.” He continued that he’s always believed that his best work is what he’s going to do next.

The other winners were Ilse Crawford CBE for the London Design Medal, Eyal Weizman MBE for the Design Innovation Medal, and for the Emerging Design Medal, Mac Collins.

Jury members included: Ozwald Boateng OBE, SarahDouglas, Ben Evans CBE, Tristram Hunt, Domenic Lippa, Jay Osgerby OBE, Justine Simons OBE, Sir John Sorrell CBE, Paul Thompson and Jane Withers.

This year’s winners will receive their medals at an awards ceremony on the evening of 20 September 2021 at The Royal Exchange. Ben Evans CBE, London Design Festival director, said that, “Each year the London Design Festival Jury comes together to select four individuals who have made a significant contribution to the design industry. Following a passionate debate, this year’s judges have selected an incredibly deserving mix of winners who have and are continuing to shape our industry.”

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Image courtesy of Michael Wolff

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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