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Glenn Tutssel, an obituary

by Lynda Relph-Knight

‘The big idea beautifully crafted.’ That was the mantra of Glenn Tutssel, the celebrated branding guru and great supporter of D&AD, writes Lynda Relph-Knight 

Tutssel, who died on September 24 aged 68, brought sartorial style and a twinkling enthusiasm to design. In the 50 years since he left his native Wales to study at the then London College of Printing, alongside Partners founder Aziz Cami and Richard Williams of Williams Murray Hamm, his award-winning work has earned him a reputation as a design great.

Glenn Tutssel

Tutssel led the line as creative director at Michael Peters Group. When it went bust in 1990 he set up on his own as Tutssels, later partnering with screen design star Martin Lambie-Nairn before they sold to WPP in 2001. Then came creative headships within WPP’s Enterprise IG and Brand Union. Four years ago though, he happily regained his independence, setting up Brand Inspiration to create what he saw as some of the best work of his life.

Though he is perhaps best known for drinks packaging, Tutssel’s repertoire extends to structural packs for Castrol and Shell oil and branding for the likes of financial services giants Credit Suisse and Fidelity International. Whatever the project, it was about pushing creative boundaries. 

BP - Wood Pencil / Packaging / individual Pack / 1992

This shows through seminal projects such as K Cider – a daring black bottle to elevate the brand within a hitherto mundane category. Peroni Nastro Azzurro beer packaging,was among his personal favourites, along with Dewars 175-year celebration bottle for Diageo. 

Tutssel’s impressive drinks portfolio included mega-brands like Johnnie Walker, Glenfiddich, Bombay Sapphire and Bacardi. But more recently, he helped put Welsh whisky on the map through the Penderyn brand with its elegant bottle and minimal style that bears none of the tradition of its Scottish counterparts.

Since college, Tutssel had been passionate about ‘the idea’ and instilled this into protégés like Williams Murray Hamm creative head Garrick Hamm, Buddy founder Mark Girvan and Chloe Templeman at Design Bridge. He could cut straight to the point and see a simple solution clearly, invariably presenting the client with just one approach. 

Glen Elgin - Wood Pencil / Packaging / Brand Label - Individual Pack / 2002

But he was equally rooted in craft. He drilled the value of hand-drawing into his design teams and had a huge respect for craft-based collaborators, from art workers to bottle makers. And he was fiercely loyal. Calligrapher Peter Horridge, illustrator Andrew Davidson and photographer Andy Seymour are among those who have worked with him since he started out. They speak fondly of the relationship in and out of the studio.

Described by many as a humble man – despite his obsession with awards wins – Tutssel was nonetheless a hard taskmaster. He believed in hard work. He loved a good, old-fashioned all-nighter and pushed the most junior designer relentlessly to come up with ‘the one’. But his team was ‘family’ to him - though not quite on a par with his wife Jane, designer daughter Lauren and photographer son Leon of whom he was immensely proud.

This passion for excellence underpinned Tutssel’s recent stints as a mentor to creative heads at Taxi Studio and Elmwood. But he pushed himself too, constantly striving for better – and getting it from his design colleagues and collaborators. 

Peroni Nastro Azzurro packaging design

Tutssel is renowned for nurturing talent and for giving credit where it is really due, often sharing accolades with his designers. So many creatives from his various teams have gone on to set up their own businesses and win their own awards. 

But he also immersed himself in education where he could, including within D&AD. He forged links with Somerset school of art and had a close relationship with Cardiff Metropolitan University via professor Olwen Moseley. While at Brand Union, he developed a scheme with chief executive John Mathers to identify and hire emerging talent from half a dozen colleges across the UK. Templeman emerged from that scheme, having been ‘spotted’ at Duncan of Jordanstone College in Dundee.

Pireli - Wood Pencil / Graphics / Technical Literature / 1992

Tutssel was inspired by everything around him. Art and film were givens as was music - bands like The Who, Small Faces, The Rolling Stones and even Tom Jones. His passion for Wales, and particularly Welsh rugby, knew no bounds.

A natural magpie, he collected cowboy paraphernalia – guns, stetsons and the like – on annual holidays in Arizona. Clint Eastwood was a hero. And he had drawers full of artefacts and artwork. He leaves an archive of all his own work.

Design aside, Tutssel will be remembered by many as a jovial host who relished a good lunch. His infectious passion extended to wine, food and ambiance – and to being in great company. His lust for life was palpable and something we should all emulate.

United Distillers - Wood Pencil / Graphic Design / Brochures / 1997

Glenn Tutssel had been a D&AD Member since 1995 and was a member of the D&AD Executive Committee from 1999 to 2001.

He served D&AD juries 12 times and was awarded 9 times including 2 D&AD Yellow Pencils.

Lynda Relph-Knight - Design writer, curator and consultant

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