A Letter from our President

Philly design community,

Happy New Year to you all. Wow, what a wonderful fall season we had. In case you missed it, we had eight events last season with an attendance of well over 400 people. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the diversity of events, including meet-ups, quizzo, exhibitions, learning & growth, and a nationwide pen pal program.

Moving into this spring season, I want to continue our theme of rebuilding, focusing on rebuilding yourself and the community. This aligns perfectly with a survey we compiled last fall that attendees filled out to align better with what you want as an attendee. An overwhelming amount said more in-person networking events and focusing on professional development and education events. In addition to you, we will look inward to us as a board on how to be better and rebuild.

To start, the board of AIGA Philly has already taken steps to grow our board to include a couple of new roles. Vice presidents of Chapter Strategy Mia Cultbertson and Chapter Operations Meredith Hines. Each role has a very different scope of responsibilities; both strive to increase transparency value and modernize our chapter to become more relevant for the coming decade. Additionally, we are looking to bring back the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director role to ensure best practices, growth, and learning for us as a board and as a resource to those in the community. Please contact me directly if you or anyone you know would be interested in this role or any role we currently have open on our board.

Programming Initiatives for the spring include another design quizzo, an engaging Q&A with Emily Cohen and Hunter Vargas of Casa Davka, Personal Branding Series with Lisa Smith: The power of knowing yourself and being yourself – and bringing it to everything you do, Designers over 60 “Where does experience go, Design Accessibility, member spotlights, student FEEDBACK, book club, and more.

Out in Central PA, we will bring back coffee & Crits, host a design quizzo, and host a tent at the first Friday, either in March or April. This will benefit a few designers a venue to sell their work and a chance to get to know us.

Lastly, our mentorship program has kicked off with over 90 participants. It’s one of AIGA Philly longest longest-lasting programs, and we’re really excited to keep it going. 

Needless to say, we’re very excited and busy over here giving you the best opportunity to rebuild yourself this spring into becoming the best designer and person you can be. 

As chapter president, one crucial matter is that I feel obligated to let those of you who are AIGA members know that funds have been mishandled at the national level. It’s a long and convoluted story, but summing it up, they’ve been in the red at the national level for quite some time. To counter this, they have taken significant steps to correct it. They’ve reduced staff and benefits to the paid staff at the national level. They have not filled the executive director role since it was vacated in 2022. 2023 was the last year they held an AIGA conference; instead, they are looking to partner with other organizations to deliver the same potential value. And lastly, the one that hits us here at AIGA Philly directly. They have reduced our percentage of membership dues. 

Maybe it is unknown to our members, but at each membership level, we’ll use the $250 tier as an example; we would receive a percentage of those dues to help support our operating budget. Effective September 1 2023, they have stopped that percentage indefinitely until the national board votes to change that. If at all.

Wrapping it up, your dues no longer go directly to your local chapter.

This may cause questions like why I should be a member or how to support my local chapter directly. We are trying to answer these questions, and once we have a solid plan in place, we will let our community know. Until then, we will find new revenue sources to support our chapter. Sponsorships and donations are always welcome, of course. But until then, we will have to begin charging for all events. If the cost of entry is a barrier to you, please contact me or anyone on the executive team; we will help you enter the event.

It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Alina Wheeler: renowned designer, author, consultant, entrepreneur, esteemed friend, mentor, and a founding member of AIGA Philadelphia.

Alina Wheeler, a luminary in the realms of branding and design, peacefully departed this world at her residence in Philadelphia on December 5, 2023. She was surrounded by her devoted husband, Ed, and daughters, Tearson and Tessa.

Throughout her illustrious life, Alina exhibited unwavering commitment to design leadership, holding various roles within AIGA. In 1980, she played a pivotal role as a founding board member of AIGA Philadelphia and assumed the presidency in 1985. Her contributions extended to the national board of AIGA from 1991 to 1994, and culminated with her recognition as an AIGA Fellow in 1999, the inaugural year of this prestigious award. 

In partnership with Joel Katz, Alina co-founded Katz Wheeler, a premier graphic design firm in Philadelphia. Throughout her career, she served as a consultant to global companies and agencies, working with senior management teams and entrepreneurs in the public and private sector to accelerate brand clarity, awareness, and loyalty.

In 2003, she authored Designing Brand Identity, a publication that swiftly became an industry standard. Now in its sixth edition and available in eleven languages, the book consistently maintains a position on Amazon’s bestseller list. In 2011, Alina co-authored Brand Atlas: Branding Intelligence Made Visible, a comprehensive guide to the brand process enriched with illustrative diagrams. Her brilliance shines through in various interviews, including a notable 2021 conversation with Rob Meyerson on the podcast How Brands Are Built.

During her 2016 AIGA National conference talk titled “We Are All Rockstars Now,” Alina expressed her admiration for David Bowie, highlighting his fearlessness, ability to reinvent himself, and the power to become irreplaceable. If there ever was someone irreplaceable, Alina, it is you.

In honor of Alina’s enduring legacy and the positive impact she had on our community, the AIGA Philadelphia Board of Directors will rename the chapter’s scholarship fund in her honor. This fund supports aspiring designers pursuing their undergraduate degrees in the field of design. To contribute to the Alina Wheeler Scholarship, please click here.

The Philadelphia design community will forever cherish Alina in our hearts. If you have a story about Alina that you would like to share, please send it to info@philadelphia.aiga.org, and we will include it in this tribute.

We’re doing so much and I’m speaking for the board, but I look forward to seeing you all at one of our events this spring. As a reminder: We need help to do this; we always need volunteers and sponsorship support to keep doing what we do. And, of course, if you’d like to donate to AIGA or our scholarship fund, we always appreciate the support. 

Thank you for your time; it is valuable and humbling that you want to spend it with us. Please reach out if you have any questions. I look forward to rebuilding each other together.

Yours through design,

Keith VanKreisel

By aigaphiladelphia
Published January 27, 2024