Remembering Alina Wheeler (1948 – 2023)

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Alina Wheeler, the daughter of a sea captain, was born on October 14, 1948, in South Orange, New Jersey. She spoke Polish before she spoke English. Alina’s first encounter with branding happened in the second grade at Sacred Heart of Jesus. When asked to color-code her soul, Alina was told to color it black if she had sinned a lot, white if she had been pure, and red if she had only sinned a little. (She colored hers in a checkered pattern.) That childhood experience ignited her fascination with color and brand architecture.

Alina graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 1970 and, in 2012, received the university’s Silver Star, an award given to outstanding alumni. In 2003, she first published Designing Brand Identity. This book demonstrated the relationship between strategy and design and showcased compelling best practice case studies from the global public and private sectors. Designing Brand Identity was a novel reinvention of the idea of a marketing textbook because it demystified branding and illuminated the range of tools and techniques used by experienced practitioners. Alina’s book was an immediate hit, striking a deep cultural chord and unequivocally proving how the branding practice engaged intelligence, creativity, imagination, and emotion, unlike any other business discipline. Now available in eleven languages, the sixth edition of Designing Brand Identity will be published next month (February 2024). Wheeler also co-authored Brand Atlas: Branding Intelligence Made Visible in 2011, a comprehensive guide to the brand process enriched with illustrative diagrams.

Alina was also a passionate member of AIGA. In 1980, she was a founding board member of AIGA Philadelphia and became its president in 1985. Alina also served on AIGA’s national board from 1991 to 1994 and was honored as an AIGA Fellow in 1999, the inaugural year of this prestigious award. In 2020, she was a founding board member of African Design Matters, a global partnership cataloging the creative work of people of African descent.

Alina Wheeler, one of the world’s great brand consultants, described her business as managing perception. She could talk as vividly about David Bowie as about Dove Soap or Deloitte. Alina was an enchanting presence, deeply committed to her family and friends, and one of the kindest, most generous souls in design and branding. Alina’s celebration of life was held in late January at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. 

Read more about this extraordinary woman on her website. And listen to Debbie Millman’s 2011 interview with Alina Wheeler on Design Matters.

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