A Different Kind of Christian University

Whitworth, a private faith-based university in Spokane, WA, was struggling to compete against the “value” message of public schools. Despite a strong reputation for academic excellence and tradition, Whitworth found it difficult to tell a brand story that was distinctive and relevant to today’s student population. Their commitment to encouraging students to ask tough questions, search for answers and shape their own perspectives wasn’t coming through. To boost admissions and increase diversity, we needed to reframe the Whitworth brand and express it through a powerful, differentiating visual and verbal language.

From the Hearts and Minds of Our Audience

In keeping with our People First Design approach, we began our process with robust qualitative and quantitative research to inform our thinking. Whitworth scored high rankings in online surveys for reputation, academic quality, value, and employment and career opportunities, even against the powerful state schools. Interviews with school leadership and student focus groups helped us understand pain points and unique differences. Audits revealed opportunities to convey the school experience, hallmark culture of dialogue and sense of place and community that truly stands apart.

“Phinney Bischoff’s process to delve into our core mission and extract the unique and compelling attributes of our organization is without comparison to other agencies. Against the ever-present silos that exist in any organization, their process was methodical, inclusive and progressed in a manner that involved and brought along critical stakeholders at each stage.”

Nancy Hines, Director of University Communications Whitworth University

Unexpected Results

Whitworth’s most compelling aspects were the surprising juxtapositions that create a life-changing educational experience for its students. We crafted a brand essence of Unexpected to strengthen emotional appeal and engage audiences at a powerful and more human level. We developed a brand platform that featured an inspiring brand manifesto and personality traits of Faithful, Inclusive, Fierce, Fun, Curious, Authentic and Unpretentious as a springboard for creative expression.


We developed a photography style that captures the unique culture and perspective of the students and faculty.

Building Spirit on Campus

To introduce the reframed brand and identity to the Whitworth community, we debuted a “Spirit Book” featuring our newly designed visual language of a brighter red, bold angles, and a mix of classic and modern typography. A diecut on the cover reveals a surprise, while the text speaks openly about Whitworth’s mission and culture of inquiry.

School of Continuing Studies

Adults finishing their degree or adding new certificates or degrees need a quality education to get them to the next level, while they navigate the realities of daily life. The new visual language and messaging is designed to be flexible and address the unique needs of the adult learners in Whitworth’s School of Continuing Studies. We created a :30 TV spot, digital banner ad and print ad templates featuring the new brand identity.