The Story and Why It Works (2022)

You are welcome Behind the logo, a series that reveals the history and design solutions of some of the world’s most famous logos. Once you learn something, use Shopify free logo maker to create something unique.

It’s hard to remember a time when Starbucks’ iconic green logo* with its friendly two-way siren wasn’t ubiquitous. It’s a familiar sight in almost any city in the world, adorning thousands of building facades everywhere, including crowded metropolises, suburban shopping mall food courts, airport terminals and even remote beaches. Starbucks is currently operating at 84 markets with more than 34,000 stores.

So how did Starbucks become the largest coffee chain in the world? Starbucks offers the perfect case study for how to build a brand from scratch. The design of the Starbucks logo that you know today has not strayed far from the original version, but it is nevertheless the result of a series of evolutions.

History of the Starbucks logo

Back in 1971, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Ziegl, and Gordon Bowker—friends who met at the University of San Francisco—had the vision to offer better quality roasted coffee beans than most people at the time. However, then the partners needed a name that would not only attract the attention of potential customers, but also be ingrained in the culture.

When they were ready to start roasting coffee beans and open the first Starbucks store, the company’s founders commissioned designer Terry Heckler to create the brand’s logo.

The original Starbucks logo was round and featured a crowned siren with two tails in the center, just like today, but that’s where the similarities end. In addition to the maximalist design, the first Starbucks siren was a much more risque character with bare breasts in the style of a traditional woodcut. The logo, which reads “Starbucks Coffee, Tea, Spice,” was also brown, a color chosen to evoke a sense of calm and stability, as well as the natural qualities of the products on offer.

In 1982, a young New Yorker and coffee lover named Howard Schultz started working at Starbucks as director of operations and marketing. A year later, on a trip to Milan, Schulz experienced the coffee culture of Italy and was fascinated by the care and artistry of each cup. He returned to Seattle with a vision to replicate that culture, but the early founders of Starbucks did not share his dreams. Schultz left to start his own coffee company, Il Giornale, but he soon acquired Starbucks, buying it for $3.8 million in 1987. Schultz decided to merge the two companies under the name Starbucks and began expanding outside of Seattle.

The 1982 Starbucks logo features a more abstract version of the siren from the earlier logo with long hair now covering her breasts. The image is still black and white, but now surrounded by a green circle with words "Starbucks coffee".

Terry Heckler is back on board to modernize the Starbucks siren, incorporating design elements from both companies. The star-studded crown and double tail of the iconic Starbucks siren remain, but Heckler has changed it significantly. Her hair now covered her chest and the original textured lines were replaced with bolder and more modern lines. Heckler changed the color scheme of the logo to Il Giornale’s black and green hue. The new logo dropped the words “tea” and “spice” and simply “Starbucks Coffee.” Just two years after the redesign, Starbucks operated 46 stores and was roasting more than two million pounds of coffee a year.

By the early 1990s, Starbucks was already beginning to dominate the coffee market. In 1992, with 140 stores operating in various cities, Schultz took the company public. at that time its market value was already 271 million dollars.

In the late 20th century, Starbucks seemed to realize that in an increasingly image-saturated world, simple and bold graphic design was the way to grab the attention of potential consumers. Staying true to the brand’s origins, Starbucks management decided to change the logo, but not too much. The 1992 redesign essentially trimmed the siren to eliminate visual noise and focus on her attractive smile.

1992 Starbucks logo. Almost identical to the 1982 logo, only now the siren's face is enlarged and the bottom half is no longer visible. The siren is still surrounded by a green circle "Starbucks coffee".

In 2011, as Starbucks celebrated its 40th anniversary, the company commissioned renowned American marketing firm Lippincott to work with its in-house design team for the latest logo redesign.

Modern Starbucks logo designed in 2011. The siren from the previous logo remains unchanged, except that the background is now green instead of black. The logo is still round, but all the words and frames have been removed.

The most significant change to the logo: removing the words “Starbucks Coffee” from the emblem. There was another change, so subtle as to be almost imperceptible. Four decades later, the Starbucks siren has become a recognizable symbol of quality coffee. The logo was an undisputed success, and yet Lippincott’s designers sensed something was wrong. “As a team, we were like, ‘Something’s not working here, what is it?’ Connie Birdsall, Global Creative Director, Lippincott, told Fast company in 2018. After the Siren’s first facelift in 1987, her face went from a textured woodcut-style portrait to an almost eerily perfect, perfectly symmetrical graphic—and she didn’t look human at all.

The design team wanted to maintain a minimalist aesthetic while warming up its look to make it friendlier and more inviting. “It felt like we needed to step back and get some of that humanity back,” Birdsall said. While the new Starbucks logo remains completely modern, it features a siren with a slightly asymmetrical face. Look closely and you’ll notice that the line that goes to her nose on the right side dips a little lower than the one on the left. Her features and proportions have also been altered – not so much that she looks like a different character, but enough that her mysterious appeal really shines through.

Exploring the meaning of the Starbucks logo

In 1971, the founders of Starbucks wanted a memorable name for their new coffee company. They had heard that words beginning with “st” were catchy and memorable, so they first settled on “Starbo,” the name of a mining town they came across on a map. Then they remembered “Starbuck,” the name of one of the characters in Herman Melville’s classic sea tale, Moby Dick. Since they sold coffee beans, teas and spices from all over the world, it made sense for their nickname to be a nod to the “seafaring traditions of the early coffee traders,” as This is stated on the Starbucks website.

When designer Terry Heckler set out to design the Starbucks logo, he focused on the brand’s nautical theme. In the course of his research, Heckler was inspired by a 16th-century Scandinavian woodcut of a two-tailed siren. “It’s a metaphor for the allure of caffeine, the sirens that lured sailors to the rocks,” he said The Seattle Times in 2011. The attractive aura of the logo and the association with seafaring connect the core ideas of the Starbucks brand: to make great coffee from around the world available in an attractive space.

Why the Starbucks logo works

The Starbucks logo is effective in many ways because of its accessibility and distinctiveness. As evidenced by the 1987 color change from black to a “more assertive green,” according to Howard Schultz’s memoir, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built the One-Cup Company. By choosing a more invigorating shade of green, Starbucks ensured that its logo would stand out wherever it was emblazoned. This was important for a company with a worldwide presence. “Our Green Mark” says the Starbucks website. “Visible for blocks. It’s our most identifiable asset, from the color of our aprons to our logo.”

The 2011 redesign reflected the ubiquity of the brand and simplified the logo to its essence. “What’s especially missing from our current logo?” writes the company on its website. “Our name. Starbucks’ global reach extends beyond coffee, and our now-so-familiar siren can certainly stand on its own.” The current Starbucks logo is also completely green and white without the black accents of earlier versions, an instantly recognizable sign of good coffee.

Create your own logo

When Starbucks changed its logo from a soft brown to a bold green, it kept the logo’s representation of natural elements, making it more appealing to busy urban spaces. If development of the company’s own logo, think about the effect color has on consumers’ perception of your company. Like Starbucks, you can start maximalist and refine your logo until you have a distinctive, memorable icon that captures the essence of your brand.

*NOTE: Behind the logo is an independent educational publication produced by Shopify Inc. on the world’s most famous logos. The post is not sponsored by or otherwise associated with the owners of the featured logos, and the featured logos were not developed in association with Shopify.

The Starbucks name and logo displayed herein are trademarks of Starbucks Corporation and/or its affiliates. For more information, please visit www.starbucks.com

Starbucks logo FAQ

What is the original Starbucks logo?

The original Starbucks logo featured a more risque, bare-breasted siren and a higher level of detail. It also contained the words “Starbucks Coffee, Tea, Spice” and was brown instead of green.

What is the Starbucks logo based on?

Starbucks was named after “Starbuck”, a character from the novel Moby Dick. According to Starbucks’ website, the logo is meant to refer to the “seafaring traditions of early coffee merchants.”

Who is the Starbucks Siren?

It was 1971, and the founders landed on the Moby Dick-inspired name Starbucks. Next: creating a logo. Something stood out while looking through old nautical books. A mysterious sea figure called to them like sirens.

“They really liked the look and feel, and it connected with what they saw as the Starbucks symbol,” – said Steve. “So we were inspired by that and created the logo from there. And she became a siren.”

https://www.shopify.com/blog/starbucks-logo The Story and Why It Works (2022)

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