The Starbucks Logo: Its History and Timeless Appeal

Welcome to Behind the Logo, a series that uncovers the stories and design choices behind some of the world’s most renowned logos. As we delve into the captivating world of logos, feel free to ignite your own creativity using Shopify’s free logo maker.

It’s hard to imagine a time when the ubiquitous green Starbucks logo, with its friendly two-tailed siren, wasn’t a familiar sight. From bustling city centers to remote beach getaways, the Starbucks logo adorns thousands of buildings worldwide. With over 34,000 stores in 84 markets, Starbucks has become the largest coffeehouse chain globally.

But how did Starbucks achieve this remarkable success? It provides a perfect case study on building a brand from scratch. Although the current Starbucks logo design hasn’t strayed far from its original version, it has undergone a series of evolutions.

The Evolution of the Starbucks Logo

In 1971, three friends – Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker – shared a vision to offer higher-quality roasted coffee beans. They needed a name that would grab attention and become deeply ingrained in the culture. The founders commissioned designer Terry Heckler to create an emblem for the brand when they were ready to roast coffee beans and open the first Starbucks store.

The original Starbucks logo featured a circular design with a crowned two-tailed siren at its center. However, the similarities with the current logo end there. The first siren was a more risqué, bare-breasted character, reminiscent of a traditional woodcut print. The logo, wrapped with the words “Starbucks Coffee, Tea, Spices,” exuded a sense of calm, stability, and the natural qualities of their products.

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Original 1971 Starbucks logo

In 1982, Howard Schultz, a young coffee enthusiast, joined Starbucks as the director of operations and marketing. His experience in Milan, where he witnessed the care and artistry of coffee, inspired him to replicate that culture. However, the original founders didn’t share his vision, leading Schultz to open his own coffee company, Il Giornale. In 1987, Schultz acquired Starbucks and merged the two companies, expanding beyond Seattle.

Terry Heckler was once again tasked with modernizing the Starbucks siren. The double-tailed siren with a starred crown remained, but Heckler made significant changes. Her hair now covered her breasts, and the logo’s color scheme evolved to black and the green shade of Il Giornale. The new logo simply read “Starbucks Coffee,” shedding the words “tea” and “spices.” Within two years, Starbucks operated 46 stores and roasted over two million pounds of coffee annually.

By the early 1990s, Starbucks was already making waves in the coffee market. In 1992, with 140 stores across different cities, the company went public with a market value of $271 million.

As the 20th century drew to a close, Starbucks recognized the importance of simple and bold graphic design to capture attention. Staying true to its origins, Starbucks tweaked the logo. The 1992 redesign cropped in closer on the siren’s face, eliminating visual noise and highlighting her inviting grin.

Starbucks logo from 1992

In 2011, as Starbucks celebrated its 40th anniversary, the company collaborated with renowned marketing firm Lippincott to revamp the logo once more.

Contemporary Starbucks logo

The most significant change involved dropping the words “Starbucks Coffee” from the emblem. The designers also made subtle adjustments to the siren’s face, reintroducing a touch of asymmetry to humanize her. These refinements maintained the minimalist aesthetic while adding warmth and inviting charm to the logo.

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Decoding the Starbucks Logo

In 1971, the Starbucks founders sought an unforgettable name for their coffee company. They settled on “Starbuck” as a nod to seafaring traditions and Herman Melville’s character from Moby-Dick. Designer Terry Heckler drew inspiration from a 16th-century Norse woodcut of a two-tailed siren, symbolizing the allure of caffeine. This nautical theme resonated with Starbucks’ mission to provide great coffee from around the world in an inviting space.

The Success of the Starbucks Logo

The Starbucks logo thrives due to its approachability and distinctiveness. In 1987, the shift from black to a more invigorating green, as described in Howard Schultz’s memoir, ensured the logo stood out wherever it appeared. The iconic green hue became synonymous with Starbucks and instantly recognizable to coffee lovers worldwide.

The 2011 redesign further simplified the logo, reflecting its global ubiquity and emphasizing the siren as a standalone symbol. Starbucks had become more than just a coffee provider, and the green and white logo became a universal signifier of quality coffee.

Design Your Own Logo

When Starbucks updated its logo from soft brown to vibrant green, it retained the natural elements while maximizing visibility in urban environments. When designing your own company logo, consider the impact of color on consumers’ perception. Start with a maximalist approach, refining your logo until a distinctive and unforgettable icon captures the essence of your brand.

*NOTE: “Behind the Logo” is an independent educational publication created by Shopify Inc., focusing on the world’s most recognized logos. The publication is not sponsored or affiliated with the owners of the featured logos, nor were the logos developed in connection with Shopify.

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The Starbucks name and logo are trademarks owned by the Starbucks Corporation and/or its affiliates. For more information, please visit www.starbucks.com.

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