By Brian Boylan
Wally started at Wolff Olins in 1965 as a client and then joined us to form a business which for him quickly became a cause and a passion.
For Wally it was never work. Although the work itself was critically important (and very often criticised by him), the business was as much a vehicle to explore, demonstrate and develop what he thought, what he believed.
It was to be a lifelong passion, culminating in the publication of his latest book Brand New, a forward look at the future of what he was central to creating and shaping. Very appropriate. Very Wally – having the final word.
Despite being the so-called ‘suit’ to partner Michael Wolff’s ‘creative’, Wally constantly railed against the corporate world and its conventions, believing in his truth that companies had to be true to their truth – their identity.
In the world in which we operated then – communication and design – Wally believed that if companies were to have a face, it should be a true, honest face, a human face. To Wally, companies were like people, with deeply-rooted personas, traits, characteristics – what now might be referred to as their DNA.
Most of the work of Wolff Olins focused on digging for that truth, articulating it and then developing highly creative non-corporate ways of expressing it. He was the arch-exponent of that.
As the work developed over the next 40 years, Wally’s thinking developed, and the books and lectures and teaching followed. From the early days of The Corporate Personality and Corporate Identity through to the more recent On Brand, The Brand Handbook and Brand New, he never stopped in his pursuit of the never-to-be-found holy grail.
His thinking, his writing, his teaching, his forthright, often outspoken manner had a fundamental effect on shaping how businesses and other institutions came to recognise the nature and significance and value of brand. That in turn helped create a platform for all of us to do what we do today.
At Wolff Olins, we remember Wally for the business he started and for continuing to inspire our never-ending pursuit.
We remember the profession he helped establish and legitimise, and that keeps lots of us busy.
We remember the carefully-crafted books, pamphlets and lectures which gave us a place in the world as well as educating the world.
We remember the work, and the work that went into the work, and the fun we had doing the work, the enormous pride in the work, and the impact of the work.
Most of all we remember Wally the man: a man with big ideas and an even bigger heart.
We will miss him, but we know and he knows he will live on.
He is part of our truth and, just as he never stopped, nor will we.
Brian Boylan is the Chairman of Wolff Olins.