In Remembrance of Jim Ales

The San Francisco Bay Area design community mourns the loss of our dear friend, colleague, and AIGA SF Fellow, Jim Ales, who passed away unexpectedly on April 20th.

Jim was passionately dedicated to AIGA, and to giving back to the design community. He shall be deeply missed, though his legacy will live on in our memories and through the stories we share, and his design legacy. Please send your remembrances and favorite stories about Jim to, which will be collected and shared later with the greater community.

As we learn more about services and opportunities to honor Jim, we will share that information.

Jim Ales was widely known as a design strategist, thought leader and advocate for his profession. For 17 years, as Art Director for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Jim was responsible for strategy, creative direction, and brand management. The Aquarium is recognized as a worldwide leader in ocean conservation. Jim’s work supported the mission of the Aquarium, influencing the way individuals, corporations and government agencies understand and interact with ocean environments.

Jim served on the AIGA National Board of Directors from 2006 to 2009, and is a recipient of the AIGA Environmental Leadership Award. His work appears in Graphis, AIGA, Communication Arts, Museum News, Applied Arts, How and Print magazines. He served as a juror for AIGA 365, Communication Arts and the Oakland Museum of California. His commentary on design and sustainability are featured in Allworth Press, Rockport Publishers, and several AIGA publications. In 2011, Jim was awarded the degree of Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments and influence in the Arts.

Messages from the community.

At our first ever Design Family Reunion gathering of friends and colleagues, in 2013 held at Monterey, CA, Rebecca Bedrossian of CA connected me with Jim. What a blessing he was.

He was—in my estimation— a man of few words and great action. He organized two “Behind the Scenes” tours at the Aquarium research center and hosted an intimate review of the great graphic design and exhibit design accomplished there. He knew well the level of respect and experience our new congress represented and although DFR then was a new thing, he trusted the recommendations of both michael Osborne and Rebecca Bedrossian to do something special for the amateur and hopeful organizers, especially Terry Marks and me.

My enduring impression of Jim Ales: Trust. Respect. Design Excellence. Action. And no bullshit or equivocation.

I’d never met Jim before and hadn’t the honor to see him again. But I believe that first impression was aligned with how those who’d known him a lifetime would share.

He brought many gifts to every table he graced. I’m powerfully glad I’d met him.

Matthew Porter President, Good Thinking Atlanta/Seattle/Portland

During his 20 years as design director for Monterey Bay Aquarium, Jim brought great creativity to shaping a vision for the Aquarium’s voice and visual brand – one that helped us advance our mission to inspire conservation of the ocean. He fully embraced our commitment to walk our talk through green business practices and was recognized by AIGA for his environmental leadership and commitment to sustainable design. We are so sorry to learn of his untimely passing. Jim’s death is a tremendous loss for the design community, and for everyone who knew him.

Mimi Hahn
, Chief Marketing Officer
, Monterey Bay Aquarium

I have known Jim since the 90s in the AIGA SF design community. He was a generous and wonderful person and designer.

My story with Jim is when my wife and son, (5 years old at the time), were staying in Carmel for a few days. I had told Jim that we would be there and he gifted my family and I passes to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He asked me to stop by his Monterey Bay Aquarium office and gave me a tour of their office and the work that he and his team were proud of. He was very generous in his time with me and to my family.

Sal Randazzo, Sal Randazzo Design