Curtis Institute of Music | Where Legends Begin


Orchestrating brand success for the future.


The Curtis Institute of Music is a private conservatory based in Philadelphia that offers courses of study leading to a performance diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, or Professional Studies Certificate in Opera. Founded in 1924, Curtis is among the most selective institutes of higher education in the world, with an admissions rate between 4 and 5 percent.


The students who study at Curtis are the finest in the world. As musicians, they come to this school because they can have musical conversations with the faculty that they cannot have with anyone else. Our mission was to help articulate the magic that happens within these halls and to engage new donors to help maintain and support this organization.


  • Customer Insight Research—Qualitative and Quantitative
  • Brand Positioning
  • Tagline
  • Narrative & Messaging
  • Digital Strategy
  • User Experience Mapping and Analysis
  • Brand Architecture System
  • Brand Equity Research


  • Logos & Visual Systems
  • Video & Brand Animations
  • Brand Standards Guidelines
  • Brand-based Marketing Systems
  • Environmental Branding
  • Magazine Design, Content Calendar and Template System
  • Brand Voice
  • UX/UI, for Admissions, Students and Donors
  • Website Design


  • Curtis App
  • Launch Planning
  • Employee Engagement
  • Donor Engagement
  • Sales Enablement
  • Advertising
  • Collateral
  • Album Collection
  • Digital & Website Maintenance
  • Signage

In this day and age, the primary focus of any identity is the digital environment. To bring the brand to life, we created three animation sequences from the Curtis identity system. Each sequence is unique to the mark it represents. We also developed screen savers, social media animations and an app—which sets the industry standard for audio quality—to bring the music of the Curtis Orchestra to a broader audience anywhere, anytime. serves many audiences: Students, Alumni, Donors, Patrons and the general public. We took this challenge as an opportunity to create a site that set Curtis apart from all other Classical Music schools, capturing the mastery and spirit of the school, while making the site deep and easy to use.

The students are the heart of the school. To truly capture the brand, it was important to represent the magic that happens inside the school. With the help of photographer David Katzenstein, we directed on-site photo shoots as witness to the magical exchange between the students and their teachers.


Creating a brand that captures 100 years of talent was a daunting task. From Leonard Bernstein to Lang Lang, future masters of classical music have once-in-a-lifetime musical exchanges at Curtis. We tried to respect this history and with great care bring this storied institution into the digital age, creating a brand that is a modern classic.


The Curtis Institute of Music asked OTTO to help to build on its heritage and legendary name and extend them well into the future to ensure continuing relevance in a changing world.


Where Legends Begin

As stewards of trusted brands, it became evident very quickly that the Curtis brand had to be recast with a modern sensibility and carefully evolve with a new a voice for the 21st Century. The brand line “Where Legends Begin” speaks to both the many talents that have passed through the institute – from Leonard Bernstein to Lang Lang – and the future masters of classical music yet to come.

Visual Identity

The initial letter of the Curtis name become our focus for the brand identity. The letter C became the major visual brand key. We developed a set of six musical Cs, each intricately to convey the richness of the world of music. The full system is bold and refined, helping the institute to cement its place in the annals of music education. 

To bring the visual identity to life, we created three animation sequences, with each sequence being unique to the mark it represents.


The primary focus of any brand today is the digital environment. The institute’s website – – serves many audiences, including students, alumni, donors, patrons and the general public. We saw this challenge as an opportunity to set Curtis apart from all other classical music schools, capturing the mastery and spirit of the school, while making the site deep and easy to use.

The students are the heart of the school. To capture the magical exchange that occurs between the students and teachers inside at the school, we directed on-site shoots, with photographer David Katzenstein, as a photo documentary.


Within a year’s time, we met our fundraising goals and were able to build the student center and new concert hall.

We rebuilt the whole digital infrastructure from admissions, to ticket sales, to website, to digital marketing and fundraising.

The school now has a consistent brand and marketing system that truly represents the organization and the magic that happens within its halls. Most importantly, Curtis has reaffirmed its position at the forefront of classical music education.

“I am proud of the result, and grateful to the board members and staff who worked with the system’s designers, OTTO, to achieve it. Please join me in thanking them as we let an even broader public know how extraordinary Curtis is.”

Roberto Díaz, President