Video: How Kahler Slater’s Environmental Branding Team Created A Visual Language For The Bradley Symphony Center

December 29, 2020

Kahler Slater’s Environmental Branding team worked closely with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, architects, interior designers, and fabricators to create the visual language for the Bradley Symphony Center. That work included building, wayfinding, and ADA signage, as well as donor recognition, digital displays, and numerous other storytelling elements within the MSO’s new home.

The Environmental Branding team developed a variety of displays that tell the stories of both the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Warner Theater, as well as a comprehensive signage and wayfinding system. The interior signage program utilizes an off-white, back-painted frosted acrylic to absorb and radiate ambient light. Materials and finishes were carefully considered, taking into account the historic style of the Warner Theater, the modern aesthetic of the new addition, and how both buildings will be used.

Unifying the Building Through Typography
To tie together the signage program and the branded storytelling elements, Futura was selected—a geometric, sans-serif typeface designed by Paul Renner in 1927. Its geometric forms reference the shapes and patterns seen in the architectural details of the Warner Theater. Futura is timeless and evokes the feel of the era in which it—and the Warner Theater—were designed. Custom-designed iconography mimics the style of the typeface and brings a modern feel to the signage program.

Celebrating 60 Years of Performances
The glass façade of the south addition is literally coded with history. Embedded in the glass is a patterned frit application listing all the composers the MSO has played in their 60-year history. Producing the artwork for this subtle yet impactful storytelling element was no small feat—the glass covers approximately 6,565 square feet of the south and east-facing façades.

Sharing Musician Stories
It was important to the MSO to tell not just the story of their organization, but of the individual artists who make up their orchestral family. On the first level of the south addition lives a colorful display composed of a series of ‘fins.’ These fins contain personalized portraits of each musician in their element—whether that be in their home garden or at their favorite cultural spot in Milwaukee—as well as a brief biography. Patrons can get to know each musician better, including their interests and hobbies outside of the theater.

A History of Opening Nights
In the lower level of the historic building, patrons can learn about the opening night at the Warner Theater in 1931 and opening night for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in 1959, as well as the grand history of Wisconsin Avenue. The Environmental Branding team designed a series of modular displays that fit within existing architectural niches in the space—a flexible design to accommodate the captivating stories and beautiful photographs in this historic exhibit.

Enjoy the video!

To learn more, visit our MSO project page.