It is safe to say that there isn’t anyone in this world who has never heard of Starbucks. Everyone knows it. As a matter of fact, Starbucks is often times the first brand people think of when they think of coffee.
On March 30, 1971, Starbucks was founded by three college students, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gorden Bowker, in Seattle, Washington. Together, they decided to sell bags of roasted coffee beans to people, little did they know that their business would turn out to be the world’s largest coffee chain today. By 2018, Starbucks already had more than 27,000 retail stores worldwide and was selling about 4 million cups of coffee a day.
In regards to its logo, the Starbucks logo have long been ingrained in the minds of consumers. Despite the changes that it went through, it still stands as one of the most iconic and memorable logo designs seen in history.
But how has the Starbucks logo become such an iconic one?
In this article, we have covered all the factors that drove the Starbucks logo to become one of the most successful company logos there are today. That being said, let’s jump straight ahead to dissect all the secrets and meanings behind it.
The Meaning Behind Starbuck’s Famous Logo Design
The designer who was responsible for designing the first Starbucks logo was Terry Heckler. As an inspiration, he sorted out old marine books and based the two-tailed siren design off of a 16th century Norse woodcut. For many years, this siren was mistaken for being a mermaid, yet it was later confirmed that the symbol was, in fact, a siren.
However, the 2011 redesign (aka the current Starbucks logo) was created by the collaboration of both Starbucks’ in-house design team and Lippincott, a global brand consultancy agency.
Through all the changes, the seafaring theme has always remained as the main concept of Starbucks’ logo design. To break it down in an easier manner, here are all the elements that make up the iconic Starbucks logo:
Starbucks’ logo has always maintained its circular shape, which in fact, is one of the most commonly used shapes in graphic design. As the circle is a shape that has neither an end or a beginning point, this could possibly be a symbol of Starbucks’ continual movement or legacy within the coffee industry.
In its 1987 version, the brand name is written inside the circle while also introducing the two new stars on the side of the wordmark. However, in its most recent version, the text and the stars have both been eliminated from the design.
The colors used in Starbucks’ logo include deep green and white. The green stands as the background color, while the white is used for the main siren symbol. In the design world, green is a color that represents healing, nature, and protection. Often times, it is also a color that is used to signify wealth and money.
The selection of these colors for the Starbucks logo is based on the way the company wants to be perceived by its consumers. The designers wanted them the green color to be representative of the positive way the brand treats its customers as well as its partners.
For a long time, Starbucks has been making efforts to ethically source their coffees while also ensuring that the farmers they work with are treated with care. Simply put, Starbucks wants to be seen as a company with great corporate social responsibility.
For all of its revised versions, except its most recent one, Starbucks’ logo design has always stuck to a simple but bold font. Sans-serif font type and block letters are used to spell out the brand’s name in a clean and sharp way.
However, because Starbucks’ logo is easily recognized by consumers around the globe, the new logo no longer required the text to be part of the logo. Even without its name, customers will be able to figure out that this logo belongs to Starbucks.
The iconic twin-tailed siren on Starbucks’ logo serves as a reference to Seattle and the sea. Wanting to communicate Seattle’s close proximity to the sea, the siren is seen to have hair that looks similar to ocean waves.
While there are many conspiracy theories out there on the internet regarding the true meaning of the siren, the designers wanted to keep its mythical and mysterious appeal. However, the most common belief about it is that the siren represents obsession, addiction, and entrapment.
According to Greek mythology, sirens were known to be the less favored creatures when compared to mermaids. Due to their presumed dangerous characteristics, this may have been the reason why designers decided to enhance the femininity and softness of the siren icon.
In the latest design, Lippincott wanted to humanize the siren. As symmetry was known to be a defining rule of human beauty, the designer decided to go against that by adding asymmetry instead. This was done by having the siren’s nose dip more on the right side of her face.
This simple shadow tweak made to the siren’s face was positively received by many fans. Designers believed that at the end of the day, people are not attracted to human perfection, which was why they decided to retain the asymmetry.
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Starbucks History & Logo Origin
When Starbucks was first established in the year 1971, it was initially named Pequod. This name was inspired by the American classic tale of Moby Dick, and was later changed to Starbucks, a name that derived from Pequod’s chief mate, Starbuck.
The famous twin-tailed siren on Starbucks’ logo was inspired by Greek mythology. According to these stories, it was assumed that sirens were creatures that lured sailors in order to attack and devour them off the coast of an island in the South Pacific. Hence, it could be said that the siren similarly symbolized Starbucks’ desire to lure coffee lovers to its store.
Since its very first one, the Starbucks’ logo has gone through many more changes, with the most dramatic redesign being the one that was created in 1987. During that year, Howard Schultz was appointed as Starbucks’ new CEO, and since then, Starbucks has revolutionized itself to become a company that solely focused on making the best espresso drinks.
Evolution of Starbucks Logo
Starbucks Logo – 1971
Originally, the logo was designed with the main image being a topless siren with a double fishtail and a fully visible navel. This was coupled with a circular ring that surrounded the figure in coffee-brown color. Inside this circle, the text read “Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice”.
Starbucks Logo –1987
Schultz’s intension with this new Starbucks logo was to polish it up a bit more. The green, black, and white color scheme were introduced in this version to represent growth, freshness, and prosperity of Starbucks. Compared to its old coffee-brown color scheme, the green and white colors had a much more soothing effect on the brands’ consumers.
Different from the original design, the full body of the siren was no longer visible. The figure became enlarged and its hair appeared to be covering up most of its body.
Furthermore, the text has also changed to ‘Starbucks Coffee’ in order to align with the brand’s focus on coffee. The brand’s name was included inside of the circular ring with the addition of two stars on each side.
Starbucks Logo –1992
The third version of the Starbucks logo is comprised of an even more close-up view of the siren. Its torso has completely disappeared out of the frame while its twin-tail still remained visible.
However, this Starbucks ring logo design became problematic for the company as it was considered to be too easily replicable. Other countries around the world were copying and using the same logo design for their knock-off versions of Starbucks which made it harder for some consumers to be able to tell the fake and the real logos apart.
Starbucks Logo – 2011
The fourth and latest version of the Starbucks logo was redesigned for the purpose of celebrating the company’s 40th anniversary. In this redesign, the siren was once again enlarged.
The biggest change with this design was that the wordmark and stars were no longer a part of the logo. This was because Starbucks was starting to sell more than just coffee drinks. They wanted to expand their company even further by offering their customers with more product ranges. As you can see today, Starbucks does not only sell coffee. They also sell breakfast foods and tea.
Interestingly, this simple and flat design resulted in Starbucks being criticized by their fans as well as other design experts. Yet, even with the negative reception, the brand has decided that they were going to keep this logo.
Despite all these changes, one key element that has been kept throughout Starbucks’ logo evolution was the siren icon. The siren has stayed and will forever be an important part of the brands’ identity design.
Over the years, Starbucks has definitely made a statement for its brand and logo. Starbucks’ visual identity has always stood out from other companies. It has continuously been consistent with what the brand stands for, and this was what contributed to the success of this global coffee brand.
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Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.