13 Jan The history of a brand: Starbucks new logo
Ok – now this is what a redesign is all about.
Starbucks recently announced their new logo in celebration of their 40th anniversary. In the last 40 years they’ve built themselves into an international powerhouse and now they are showcasing the 4th iteration of their iconic mermaid logo.
Their first logo was created in 1971 and introduced their iconic siren – based on a 15th century Norse woodcut. They chose the bare-breasted siren specifically to draw a connection between coffee and seduction. A charming but sketchy drawing, it did not stand up well to time. With the advent of the internet, corporate graphics must work well when displayed at 72dpi – which is the resolution used on the web. Note how hard it is to actually see the detail on the mermaid at left – the thin lines disappear at this resolution. As for the rest of it, the font choice was good in its simplicity but a bit weak in practice – too small and thin. Plus, the choice of brown feels very expected for a coffee company. All in all, a good start, but as corporate brand it was too detailed, and bit too easy to forget. It lacked the versatility and memorability needed to make it a truly strong brand.
Revised and improved
The redesign in 1987 was spurred by Starbucks owner Howard Schultz merging Starbucks with his other company, an espresso bar called “Il Giornale”. In merging the logos, they did a lot of good things. First of all they revised the mermaid – changed her from a sketch into a graphic image, easy to reproduce in every medium. Plus they made her a little more “family-friendly” by covering her breasts. Simplified but still complex enough to be interesting and distinctive. This move also her more memorable and recognizable. They retained the circle but made the switch in color to what is now recognized as “Starbucks green”, inspired by the “Il Giornale” brand. They also lost the horizontal band making the shape more versatile for all placements and usages. The name was simplified – now it is simply “Starbucks Coffee”, in a bold sans serif font. A good move since down to them the nation was suddenly spending at least 5x the amount that they used to spend on a cup of coffee – and they were doing it with joy! It was a coffee revolution which still rages on. The final thing that needs mentioning is the addition of three star icons – two in the circle and one in the mermaid’s tiara. The stars are also a pick up from Il Giornale, but of course a great addition to actually have stars featured in the Starbucks logo.
In 1992 they redesigned again – this time a small adjustment. This is the logo most of us came to know well. They did their biggest growth in this period. The goal here was further g-rating the logo. Seems they’d been getting complaints about the sexual nature of the previous drawing – a Christian rights group out of San Diego called “The Resistance” had actually called for a national boycott. So, the company conceded and cropped the siren’s bottom half out, focusing more on her face. While the effort was to appease, they reduced the detail in the logo overall, which further improves the memorability of the image, retains the graphic style and puts more focus on the name of the company. They retained what was working – the circle, the green, the stars… all good stuff.
Latest installment – wonderful
Now, in 2011, they’ve dumped the words entirely. A bold move! It assumes that they are so well known, the color and mark are so recognizable, that they needn’t be so gauche as to include the name of the company in the logo. There are few corporate brands strong enough to pull this off. McDonalds comes to mind… Nike… NBC… and Target has also recently made this move. I think it’s brilliant. The illustration is quite remarkable. Over the years it’s been honed to a pretty much perfect mark. A circle inside a circle, pos/neg tension, repetitive undulating waves, a pretty face, a crown, a star….everything in balance. I’m looking forward to see how this plays out in practical usage – shop signage, printed on cups, packaging, etc. I just checked and Starbucks.com does not have the new logo in place yet. Something to look forward to.
All in all, I think this was a remarkable brand update. This logo is the face of the new era of Starbucks – they’re not just coffee anymore. And with this new version of their logo, they don’t have to be.