Wharton Center reveals new look, emphasizing art at the center

Posted: 1:48 PM, Sep 08, 2017
Updated: 2017-09-11 11:17:30-04
Wharton Center reveals new look, emphasizing art at the center

Thirty-Five years ago Michigan State University’s Wharton Center opened its doors and the community immediately fell in love with the diverse programming and opportunities presented at the new performing arts center.   Today, Wharton Center — known for presenting the best touring Broadway shows and performing arts attractions — has become a vibrant hub of engagement and education, touching the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of people every year.

To express the expanding and meaningful role that Wharton Center plays in the community, the Center is unveiling a refreshed visual expression of their mission and new statement of purpose.

This new brand expression builds on Wharton Center’s powerful legacy and creates a modern look and feel.  The Center will continue its quality programming connecting with the communities it serves. At the same time, Wharton Center’s statement of brand purpose is an aspirational one that will guide them for years to come. It expresses the belief that art is integral to living a rich, full, purposeful life. Wharton Center aspires to connect with the creative spirit in all…one student, one performance, one community at a time.

“We are excited to unveil a new visual identity.  It really says what we are all about – art is at the center of everything we do,” noted Wharton Center’s Executive Director Mike Brand. “However this brand refresh is much more than just a new logo.  There’s creative spirit in every single person who attends Wharton Center.  Through programming, education, and community outreach we connect that energy, share stories of inspiration, and strive to create a sense of place that allows us all to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Our brand statements now incorporate that philosophy.”  


A key element of the brand makeover is a fresh symbol which has a naturally occurring, impactful visual statement: ART at the Center. Below are several variations, but all versions reflect the variety, vitality and the dimensionality of performing arts.

Within the last few years, Mike Brand, Wharton Center’s Advisory Council, volunteers and staff started looking more closely at the Center’s mission and branding. It was determined that Wharton Center was doing all the right things, but could be doing them better — and have an impact on even more people. At the same time the community was not fully aware of the plethora of education, engagement and outreach opportunities Wharton Center provides.

As these conversations were happening, MSU alumnus and Wharton Center donor Eloy Trevino was establishing an endowment fund for the Center. At the time, Trevino was a Partner at Prophet, a leading global consultancy.  At his urging, Wharton Center applied for and received a tremendous in-kind gift of rebranding from Prophet.  

For more than six months, Prophet worked with Wharton Center stakeholders, including staff, council members, donors, namesakes Dr. and Mrs. Wharton, ticket buyers, MSU community members and others to create a new brand identity. The Prophet team then translated the new identity into positioning statements and a visual system that has created new energy at the Center. 

“We were incredibly inspired by the noble mission of Wharton Center, and our team created a new brand positioning to reflect the good work it does. Next, we developed a beautiful, yet simple, identity that provided Wharton Center with a modern and flexible expression of its brand,” said Andres Nicholls, global executive creative director at Prophet. “The discovery of the word ‘art’ inside the name was a beautiful moment in the design process, and we used it to communicate that art is at the core of everything Wharton Center does.”

Dr. Clifton and Dolores Wharton are thrilled with the new look. It’s completely in line with their vision of how they see the arts. Dr. Wharton said, “The performing arts provide a beautiful window through which to view humanity. They are a dimension of culture, that when exposed, provide you with a more meaningful existence on this planet.”  

For MSU President Lou Anna K Simon the new look expresses the role Wharton Center plays on campus and in the community. “Wharton Center is a real treasure for the university and community.  We applaud not only the great performances that nourish the soul and challenge the mind, but also Wharton’s outreach across the state that inspires and makes performing arts accessible for all ages.”

The new branding will impact all aspects of how Wharton Center presents itself — including the Wharton Center Institute for Arts & Creativity supported by MSU Federal Credit Union—from patron communications to the website to publications and advertising.