Marina Willer joins Pentagram

Wolff Olins creative director Marina Willer is to become Pentagram London’s first female partner. She will become the design firm’s 18th partner worldwide

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Wolff Olins creative director Marina Willer is to become Pentagram London’s first female partner. She will be the design firm’s 18th partner worldwide

Perhaps best known for the Tate identity produced by her group at Wolff Olins (with Brian Boylan) in 1999, Brazilian-born Willer first came to London 15 years ago to study at the Royal College of Art. For the past 13 years she has been at Wolff Olins where she has worked on major identity schemes that include the Southbank Centre, Amnesty International and Russian telecoms operator Beeline.

Amnesty International. Wolff Olins team led by Robert Jones and Marina Willer, 2008

Southbank Centre identity, 2007. Wolff Olins team led by Brian Boylan and Marina Willer

Identity for Basel-based museum Schaulager. Wolff Olins team led by Brian Boylan and Marina Willer


Beeline identity. Wolff Olins, 2005. Wolff Olins team led by Sairah Ashman and Marina Willer. All Wolff Olins work, copyright Wolff Olins

“Marina has carved out an impressive reputation in the London design scene over the last 10 years for both her cultural and corporate work. And it’s this combination that we feel fits perfectly with Pentagram’s approach,” current partner Domenic Lippa says of her appointment.

Perhaps less well known is that Willer is also a filmmaker. Her short films have been shown in festivals around the world while, in 2004, Cartas de Mae won best short at the Sao Paulo Film Festival. Her film Exposed (below) introduced Richard Rogers’ exhibition in the Pompidou Centre and Design Museum

“I am really proud to be invited to become a partner at Pentagram. I have huge respect for their work, their principles and their uncompromising passion for design,” Willer says of her new role.

The addition of Willer marks another step in Pentagram’s recent diversification. In years gone by, Paula Scher would be the only female figure posing in the partners’ annual team photograph. Lisa Strausfeld joined in 2002 but revealed earlier this year that she was to leave. However, as well as Willer, the Pentagram New York office recently announced that Emily Oberman will also be joining as a partner in April. In 2010, Eddie Opara became the firm’s first non-white partner in New York while Naresh Ramchandani joined the London office later that same year.

Pentagram insists that it is not consciously attempting to diversify in its choice of partners and maintains that all the new joiners are there strictly on merit and for no other reason. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to see the firm continue to move away from its previous homogeneity, hopefully encouraging female and non-white young designers in the process.

A full profile piece on Marina Willer will appear in the April issue of CR.



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  • Wow, very interesting. I am sure she will be a great addition to Pentagram. She comes across as a very articulate thinker and speaker.

  • Metin Saray

    I found it kind of strange to diversify people in Pentagram sexually and racially and not as design-wise. Is encouraging female and non-white young designers a criteria? Or do they need courage due to these parameters. I might be wrong, but i didn’t find it a design-related detail.

  • Jobseeker


  • Heidi

    First Female partner! It’s 2012. Is the fact that she is female news?!?! How about talented partner? Amazing partner? Etc. Female partner – snore. Did she get the job
    Bc she’s female? Probably not. So why is it the headline? It’s 2012. – heidi

  • Ken

    Metin: very insightful comment, should we just bypass all the diverse work listed above and engage in your noble debate?!

  • Mike

    Erm… so what if she’s female? Are we still creating, designing, thinking in a community that has sexual prejudice enough that you feel it necessary to highlight the fact that Marina Willer is a woman – I thought our community at least would be above all this by now, you know open thinking, being exposed to society’s more extreme arenas woudl give us an open mind? Surely the emphasis should be on her skills as a Creative foremost?

  • Derek Stewart

    ‘….it is gratifying to see the firm continue to move away from its previous homogeneity, hopefully encouraging female and non-white young designers in the process.’ (yawn)

    Haven’t they always encouraged ‘other’ designers? I always thought their policy depended on who ‘fits’, ie. immense talent and what a new partner can bring to the firm.

    I admire Pentagram’s ‘recent diversification’ for the choice of talents they have made regardless of sex or race.

    Congratulations! Ms. Willer ; )

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Heidi, Mike, Derek

    If you are honestly suggesting that diversity and in particular gender, are no longer a problem or an issue in professional graphic design practice I suggest you take a look around you.

    Two examples: We’re reporting from the Design Indaba conference this week. Number of female speakers: three. We are also preparing a big piece on Fuse for the next issue. There were 100 contributors to Fuse over 20 issues: 8 were women.

    How many female graphic designers have received a D&AD President’s Award? How many have been President?

    Marina is a very talented designer – that’s why we asked her to be a judge for our Annual this year, why she was one of the panel who helped us pick our 20 favourite logos last year and why we are running a big feature on her next issue. But it’s frankly ludicrous to suggest that one of our leading design practices finally appointing a female partner after 40 years in London is a non-issue.

  • Sara

    Was Marina Willer one of the creative directors responsible for the London 2012 logo while she was at Wolff Olins? I am still not keen on that particular piece.

    Congratulations on joining Pentagram

    Is it only me or does the company name not sound a little masonic anyway?

    Good to know they are letting girls in now, a sensible decision given the fact that there are far more female designers out there than male – just go to any degree show and you will probably notice the heavily outnumbered male designers.

    And like Patrick, I wish her luck when she apply’s to become the next D&AD President – why not? But If she worked on the 2012 CI i might take that back.


  • Metin Saray


    As you can see, i said i might be wrong. I didn’t think, or at least found, race / sex and such things as a criteria in a topic like this. But since PatrickBurgoyne wrote about the statistics on the number of female speakers and why this detail should be included in the issue, i am now thinking that it makes sense.

    Maybe i couldn’t look at the data in a true perspective at the first glance.


  • Ed

    ‘There are far more female designers out there than male’

    Utter balls.

    Also, I agree with Patrick except to say it’s not necessarily a problem, more an observation to say the design industry’s not particularly diverse. It’d only be a problem if we as an industry were somehow deliberately holding people back based on age/race/gender/hair colour/shoe size etc.

  • Derek Stewart


    I certainly wasn’t suggesting that diversity and gender (better words) are no longer a problem. To be honest I wasn’t aware, or hadn’t noticed, that in graphic design in particular, there was such a problem. How very sad.

    I was merely commenting on why we still have to make the distinction. Then again, maybe I should get out more.

    You make a very good point, though, and I agree – Pentagram London’s first female partner after 40 years – maybe you should take up the issue with them or talk to Design Indaba and D&AD.

  • Miranda

    [comment deleted by moderator]

  • aline


    You see, the very fact that you were not aware or didn’t notice that in the graphic design field, gender equality was far from being reached, is in itself a very sad thing. (Please, don’t take me wrong, I’m not judging here your honest comment, but much more commenting on a fact which contributes even more to women being much less visible than men in all sectors of society.)
    Virginia Woolf once said that had Shakespeare been female, we most certainly would have never heard of her… Nearly one hundred years later, the issue remains painfully glaring.
    Kind regards,

    Magnum is to photography what Pentagram is to graphic design.At Magnum, there is 82 photographers; 74 are men.

  • Abed

    I wish her all the best! I am sure her passion will drive excellent creativity to every environment she works on! She is a great asset to the team.

  • A

    As a young black design student When Eddie Opara became partner the fact that he was a black guy meant something to me. Of course the quality of work is of paramount importance but if you think issues of race and gender mean nothing and shouldn’t be discussed or mentioned you’re on another planet. Why was there so much fanfare when Obama became president? Fact of the matter is young women and minorities have one more person to look up to, aspire to and say to themselves in this world that is still dominated by white males across all aspects of society. I can do it to. Meritocracy is great on paper, Im not advocating affirmative action or anything but there’s obviously issues to be addressed.
    ..that said,

  • shesha

    Here here PatrickBurgoyne!
    Sexist people (whether they are aware of their way of thinking or not) like to think of women as tech illiterate, fragile, and whatever else they think in their closed minds. So they give them less opportunities. Women have to work three times as hard to get the same position as a man because of the prejudices. Obviously it’s still an issue if it’s 2012 and she’s the FIRST female! This should have happened years ago. But glad it’s happening regardless. Congrats Marina!