The Wharton Center

Defining brand purpose for a performing arts center


The Wharton Center at Michigan State University (MSU) is an important asset to the Lansing community. While its well-known for providing entertainment, its purpose is elevated by its support for the performing arts in the local community. The organization brings a unique spirit to Lansing but has recently struggled to demonstrate value to its constituents. While embarking on new programs poised to improve engagement and relevance within MSU, The Wharton Center found that its brand lacked focus – it needed to redefine its role at MSU and within the greater community.


The Wharton Center looked to Prophet to help define its purpose and better position it within the extended local community. The Prophet team found that the brand’s purpose and promise were rooted in its core beliefs and reason for existing: to inspire the mind and move the soul by sharing stories, celebrating differences and creating a community through performance and education.

To demonstrate its newly discovered and defined purpose through its visual assets and media, Prophet created a new visual identity for the brand and an implementation plan. The brand evolution focused on the concept of putting “Art at the Center” – it reflects both the variety and dimensionality of the performing arts by using a dynamic logotype. Prophet also introduced representational shapes to add a unique flavor to the graphic system. These shapes represent that performing arts are always alive, moving and evolving through music, dance and variety.


The revitalized brand purpose and visual identity helped The Wharton Center define and express its role within the MSU community. Each year, the Center impacts the lives of more than 30,000 young people, to help them find courage, foster boldness and embrace diverse perspectives. The organization is committed to shaping the world through performing arts and arts education; and sharing stories of its community–of dreams, heartbreaks, struggles and triumphs– and heritage for future generations.

This work received a gold award for key art and a bronze award for print collateral at the 2019 International Design Awards.

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