Mark Wickens: a tribute

As one of the founders of Wickens Tutt Southgate and latterly Brandhouse, Mark Wickens helped build one of Britain’ most successful design consultancies – one that played a significant role in the establishment of a British design ‘industry’

After studying at Kingston University, Mark Wickens started his career as a branding designer at Michael Peters and Partners in 1982. With his ability to combine creativity with strategic thinking he became known as a ‘deep-thinking designer,’ and was quickly promoted to Group Head at a time when UK design was experiencing rapid growth as it transformed itself into an ‘industry’ .

At Michael Peters he formed a close relationship with New Business Director Simon Rhind-Tutt and Strategic Planning Director Paul Southgate, and late one night at an agency party they came up with a plan to form a breakaway company. It would be a combination of brand consultancy and design agency, and it would talk and work like an ad agency, with strategic planning at its core. Such an approach was to become a model for the more commercial end of the UK design scene for the coming decades.

In October 1989, after months of kitchen-table planning, the partners put their houses up for security and Wickens Tutt Southgate was born. In just three years it became a top ten UK design agency and a magnet for some of the best talent in the industry, concentrating on FMCG packaging and branding.

Notably, in the late 1990s WTS was given the task of redesigning Tango, a failing soft drink brand. Mark and his colleagues came up with a simple but powerful idea: they would turn it into ‘the soft drink that acts like a lager.’ It led to one of the most famous and effective branding and marketing strategies of the past half-century which HHCL turned into some of the most memorable advertising ever seen.

Tango: 1992

WTS was eventually transformed into Brandhouse, which is still one of the leading brand agencies today.

Mark was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016. According to colleagues “he approached his illness with positivity, courage and resilience”. He died at home peacefully, with his family. He is survived by his wife Anne and his daughters Polly and Hannah.

Mark Wickens

In a statement, Brandhouse say “He will be sorely missed by family and friends, and by his clients and colleagues, who have many happy memories working with him. We’ll miss his kindness, his generosity, his brilliance and his unbreakable spirit.”

Readers are welcome to share their memories of Mark Wickens in the comments below

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