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Michigan State UniversityCommunications and Brand Strategy
Download MSU Brand Standards Guide (PDF)


Brand at MSU

The Michigan State University brand is much more than a university seal or logo. It is what students, parents, academicians, alumni, public servants, corporations, countries, and outside observers all think, feel, and respond to when they hear the words or see the symbols for Michigan State University.

Like the university, our brand has enormous influence. By creating a strong brand, we can continue to shape the way people think about Michigan State University for the better.

The brand is built upon the fundamental truth of our history and our identity. The look, feel, and tone contained in our brand standards reflect who and what Michigan State University is and aspires to become.

It is important that we are disciplined in the way we present Michigan State. Using our brand standards will ensure that the look and feel of Michigan State University stays consistent when it goes out to meet the wider world.

We encourage you to download the comprehensive MSU Brand Standards for full details and future reference. Key components are:

The MSU creation story

Right before United States tore itself apart in civil war, a revolution was brewing that would change the nation forever.

There was a political movement afoot to create agricultural colleges—institutions of higher learning that would promote both the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes—all over the country. In short, America needed colleges to educate its young to become farmers, engineers, educators, and scientists—people who would build the nation.

In 1850, the Michigan Constitution called for an agricultural college. It was established in 1855. And by 1862, what is now known as Michigan State University stood as the pioneer land-grant university in the country, where it would serve as the model for decades to come of what a land grant university can and should do. As a university of, for, and by the people, Michigan State University began a long tradition of empowering ordinary people through education “good enough for the proudest yet open to the poorest.”

Michigan State University’s achievements are as diverse as they are consequential: the university created hybrid corn, homogenized milk, and developed a cancer-fighting drug that has saved millions. And it has educated hundreds of thousands of thinkers, from Nobel laureates and U.S. senators to ordinary people who affect our lives in extraordinary ways.

Despite the economic challenges facing the state of Michigan and the world, this is an exciting time for Michigan State University. President Lou Anna K. Simon has called us to once again be the model for land-grant institutions by 2012. With a revitalized brand, we can narrate the next chapter of the Spartans and their accomplishments. With a global reach, vast capabilities, and a community and culture dedicated to advancing the common good, the epic of Michigan State University continues.

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Brand platform

HARDWORKING EXCELLENCE. This is the core of the Michigan State University brand.

This core is supported by three primary brand pillars through which MSU works to create and apply knowledge to help find solutions for some of the world’s most challenging problems:

  1. Values-driven approach to all we do
  2. Vast capabilities to make a difference
  3. A way of working that values and engenders collaboration and connectivity on campus and around the globe

The Michigan State University community shares a sense of purpose and a special bond. When Spartans work together to advance the common good, the results are nothing short of awe-inspiring. This brand aims to elevate the excellence and achievement of the university—and of Spartans everywhere—on all fronts to convey how Michigan State’s culture and values, vast resources, and deeds are the stuff of epic legend.

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Brand principles

The extended brand identity articulates who we are and what we strive to be. These nine principles are essential aspects of Michigan State University’s identity, and they should all be considered when creating materials for the institution:

  1. Proud
  2. Hardworking
  3. Inclusive
  4. Practical
  5. Bold
  6. Genuine
  7. Empowering
  8. Principled
  9. Awe-Inspiring

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Michigan State University demonstrates that it is entirely possible to be heroic and humble at the same time. To be larger-than-life and accessible, down-to-earth and amazing.

We are midwestern. Friendly. Proud of our accomplishments. Confident without being arrogant. We are constructive. We admire perseverance and a job well done. We are reliable without being boring. We are optimistic. We are always looking for the next great discovery, the next game-changing solution.

And we value telling the truth, which is what we should always do when speaking about ourselves. Our tone should be consistent with our values and identity.

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Key messages

The brand must be flexible enough to speak to a variety of audiences in slightly different ways. While you will draw from the key messages to shape the tone and content of your materials, use language and phrasing that will resonate most with your external audience.

Overarching brand message

Drawing upon its land-grant values, Michigan State University applies its vast capabilities, knowledge, willingness to engage, and collaborative approach to create opportunity and to help find solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.

Brand messages for primary audiences

Prospective undergraduates

Michigan State University provides promising, qualified undergraduate students with vast capabilities and unique opportunities within an exciting, academically challenging, and supportive global community that prepares them to succeed and contribute fully to society.

Prospective graduate students

As a top research university with vast capabilities and a distinguished faculty, Michigan State University provides graduate students with the knowledge and practical experiences that prepare them to achieve success and help discover solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.


Michigan State University works side by side with partners, putting its vast capabilities, knowledge, distinguished faculty, and world-class facilities to work to create opportunity, solve problems, and make a positive, sustainable impact on society.


Michigan State University makes a profound positive impact on society, and its more than 480,000 living alumni worldwide are an integral part of that force for good, individually and collectively.


Michigan State University’s donors are essential partners in fostering and growing the vast capabilities, pursuit of knowledge, and interdisciplinary collaboration that provide opportunity to students and help solve the world’s most challenging problems.

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