Like more then half of America, I like to enjoy an espresso drink once in awhile. What I really mean is that I’ve become addicted to Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiatos and I am currently willing myself not to drink one more then twice a week. The focus of this post though is the graphic design element all who have walked into Starbucks have noticed, the logo!
It features what a first glance appears to be a crowned woman with long wavy hair and some…well, claws? Admit it, you weren’t sure what those were doing there either! You have to admit also that the above logo doesn’t look like the Starbucks logo you immediately imagine when you hear the words Grande Iced Upside Down Caramel Macchiato. No, the above logo just made it’s debut in 2011 but I’ll admit I hadn’t paid too much attention to it until recently either. I realize that’s my whole purpose of this blog, to notice design around me but I’ve been trying to avoid this place remember? I hear not looking at the siren on the cup helps.
True Starbucks hipsters know that the logo has changed it’s appearance slightly a few times over the years. Those same hipsters also know that the woman featured in the logo is actually a mythical siren modeled after a Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid. Senior writer, Steve M, of Starbucks cites that in the 1970’s when Starbucks was designing their logo they wanted something that paid tribute to coffee’s history of traveling by sea and the strong tie ports and the ocean have with Seattle, where the company originated from. I’m still thinking the symbolism of a siren calling to passing ships, or in today’s world passing tourists, promising what we’ll just call sweet pleasure and later killing you, financially anyways, was a huge part of the decision.
As the company’s popularity grew, the logo began to change. Below are the four logos Starbucks has used in the last 40 plus years.
In 1971 the brown, sometimes referred to as cigar, logo was introduced featuring a full length portrait of the lovely siren lady. Turns out what now get mistaken for claws are actually her twin tails, spread wide, for the world to see. She is also bearing clearly defined breasts, complete with nipples, which I’m sure got complaints since they were relatively quickly phased out when Starbucks started really growing in the Pacific Northwest. Notice in 1987 her hair is acting a little more modestly. Apparently in 1992 the spread legs were deemed inappropriate, fine by me, resulting in the logos of the last 20 years featuring a well cropped focus on the face of Ms. Siren. I’m a minimalist in many ways and really like the newest Starbucks logo. They seemed to have reached the brand recognition level of no longer needing their name on the logo and I’m sure that is always an awesome feeling.
To me, Starbucks, and the various small logo changes they’ve had over the years, is a perfect example of the symbolism and thought that goes into creating a logo. Companies rarely arbitrarily choose images to associate with themselves, instead they want a logo that embodies their mission or beliefs. In Starbucks’ case it’s officially a tribute to coffee’s roots and the maritime passion found in Seattle and it seems to fit the company well.