Tall Tales

Starbucks Logo History

Here is an informative speech I presented at a Toastmasters’ meeting on the history of the Starbucks logo.

The Starbucks logo is widely regarded as one of the most popular logos in history and has won several prestigious design awards.

But who is this lady with the wavy hair? What does she stand for?  To answer this question we must understand where the name Starbucks came from.

  • Starbucks was founded in Seattle in 1971, which was and still is an oceangoing fishing village.
    Seattle is known as a fishing village.
  • Starbucks is named after the character “Starbuck,” the first mate in the novel Moby-Dick (by Herman Melville).

    Art credit: KathyRose*

In keeping the desire to honor Seattle’s seafaring history, an early creative partner dug through some old marine archives until he found an image of a siren from a 15th or 16th century Nordic woodcut. She was perfect -or though he thought!

the original Starbucks logo was designed to reflect the seductive imagery of the sea
The original Starbucks logo.

So there you have it:  the original Starbucks logo was designed to reflect the seductive imagery of the sea. Doesn’t she just scream “Buy my coffee”?

Based on the newly found woodcut, the 1st logo featured a mythical two-tailed mermaid figure in a coffee brown color palette. The design was intended to symbolize the overpoweringly attractive and seductive quality of the coffee.

The design was intended to symbolize the overpoweringly attractive and seductive quality of the Starbucks brand.
The original Starbucks logo.

Conspiracy theorists had a field day with the cryptic image. Anti-Semitic groups have claimed that the crowned maiden is the biblical Queen Esther, proving that Starbucks is behind various Zionist plots. Others see parallels to Illuminati imagery. The real story is less about evil conspiracies and more about graphic design.

Practical Wisdom Prevails

When Starbucks was acquired by a new owner in 1987, the logo underwent a series of alterations to adjust to a new corporate image.

1987 Covered Breasts

The bare breasts were covered up by the mermaid’s flowing hair and the green color was introduced to imply the growth, freshness, uniqueness and prosperity of the rapidly developing brand but shockingly her navel was still present.

1990's Starbucks logo
1987 Starbucks logo.

1992 No More Belly Button

The Starbucks logo underwent another overhaul in 1992, when the image of the mermaid was given a close-up view. Her navel disappeared from the design and only a part of her double-tail is visible. 

At this point, without knowing the Starbucks logo history, it could be hard to know what the logo even represents.

1990's Starbucks logo
1992 Starbucks logo

The current version of the Starbucks logo was unveiled in 2011, as part of the company’s 40th anniversary.

40th Anniversary Starbucks logo.
40th Anniversary Starbucks logo.

This controversial “wordless” design removed the outer circle that featured the “Starbucks Coffee” brand name, while enlarging the Siren even further and using only one color: Green.  It received harsh criticism from design experts and popular audiences alike but remains one of the most recognizable logos in the world.

Still headquartered in Seattle, it is now the world’s largest coffeehouse chain, with approximately 20,891 stores in 62 countries across the globe.

Review

Original brown logo, used from 1971–1987.

Original brown logo, used from 1971–1987.
1971–1987.

Green logo used from 1992–2011, still used in some places.

Green logo used from 1992–2011, still being used as a secondary logo.
1992 – 2011

Redesigned logo from 2011 still used today.

40th Anniversary Starbucks logo
2011 – 40th Anniversary Starbucks logo

2021 Starbucks 50th Anniversary

No new logo for Starbucks 50th anniversary. I guess if something works don’t fix it!

Visit the Starbucks website here: https://www.starbucks.com

*Sketch of Starbuck and Ahab https://www.deviantart.com/kathyrose/art/Moby-Dick-1956-Starbuck-and-Ahab-327686124

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