Fast Track: Guinness was good for me - and my career

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Glenn Tutssel, Creative

Director Of Tutssels

Glenn Tutssel, 47, is an award-winning commercial designer and creative director of his own company, the brand-identity specialists Tutssels. Renowned for his "drinks and drugs" packaging, Glenn has built up his firm to have a pounds 10 million turnover and a staff that numbers almost 70.

I HAD an art master at my school where I grew up in Glamorgan, who was a very nice guy called Doug Sutton. He was also a black belt in judo and I went to his classes in that as well. He had been a commercial artist: he taught me through to A-level and helped me get into West of England College of Art in Bristol. It was a great place to get started. I did a foundation course, pre-diploma, in art and design.

During the year I was there , they taught you how to draw from life, do sculpture, painting, fashion, typography - everything interrelates as graphic art. I decided I wanted to go down the commercial route. Although most of my inspiration has been from fine art, what I love is the idea of applying a visual message to things like packages, brochures and posters. Working to a brief is the thing I really get a buzz from.

From there, I went on to the London College of Printing to do a BA in graphic communication. I was very fortunate to be taught by Tom Ekersley - he was famous for those Guinness posters which you now see on show at museums. During that time I also did a lot of freelance work, which I now think is crucial for students. You have to go out into industry to get a flavour of the pressures and the time-scales. I worked for a book designer, several design companies and even a silk-screen printer.

My tutors, David Lock and Tom Pettersen, also had a design company which I freelanced for before I left. It was a natural progression for me to go and work for them after I left college. I worked on brochures, corporate identities and annual reports. It's amazing when you get your first piece of work printed.

One of my first pieces was some packaging for a company in South Africa, which I'm still very proud of: it featured little graphics of sportsmen on glucose tablets.

I stayed there for 10 years and became a director and senior designer. I was happy there but was offered a job at a company called Michael Peters, which at the time was probably the most famous packaging company in the world. There was a massive redesign of packaging for Shell Oil. We won the business, and that helped me establish my name in the industry.

I did lots more packaging work and won three British D&D Silvers, which are the industry's most coveted awards. I'm a loyal worker and stayed with Michael Peters for 10 years. I became creative director and started to acquire a taste for running my own business.

So, when I was 40, I decided that it was time to set up my own company - that was in 1990, when the recession was looming. A client at Citibank said that if you can succeed in a recession you can make it any time. I thought it was sound advice, and when you're itching to set up, nothing's going to stop you.

I think that in your first year at work you have a honeymoon period. We were given a lot of work from Panadol, who are a massive European brand. Early on we also won a huge job to redesign the counter mats for Guinness. One thing I'm proud of is that we've never lost a client. I have this reputation as a drink and drugs man, which comes from doing a lot of work for SmithKline Beecham and also Johnnie Walker. Our packaging comes into play on a big night out and also the morning after!

I make sure that 60 per cent of my time is spent designing. One of the dangers of running your own business is that you end up doing things you were never trained to do. My brother gave me the best advice when he said, "Never let anybody else do the job you love".

I was helped at a very early age, so I have always tried my best to help out young designers. I am an external lecturer for several London art colleges. They are the lifeblood of creative art in Britain. My career advice is that enthusiasm counts for 99 per cent.

I don't think Mr Sutton is disappointed that I didn't concentrate on the judo. But I did teach judo for many years: it's a fantastic leveller and an analogy for business because on the mat you can either perform or you can't.