Design & UX
By Jennifer Farley

Starbucks Logo Evolution

By Jennifer Farley

I don’t drink tea or coffee and I’ve never set foot in a Starbucks coffee shop, however I’m very much aware of the Starbucks logo as it’s visible in many cities around the world. This iconic logo has gone through several changes over the years, starting in the early seventies with a brown label and woodcut image of a mermaid. Now celebrating it’s 40th anniversary, Starbucks logo has evolved again with the removal of the words Starbucks Coffee and enlargement of the mermaid icon – the Siren – to fill the green circle. The re-design was carried out by international branding firm Lippincott.

New 2011 re-designed logo
mermaid starbucks-logo-1992
The early woodcut style Siren The 1992 logo

As part of the logo design process, the design team broke down the four main parts of the existing logo – color, shape, typeface and the Siren. The result of the process was the production of a simplified logo. The words were removed from the mark, the black background behind the siren was replaced with green, and the Siren was taken out of her ring.

The previous logo was created using an early version of AutoTrace, so a rebuild and some cosmetic surgery of the Siren was required. Composition was improved by using a more sophisticated stroke width and spacing. Her hair has been smoothed, facial features have been refined and the scales on her tail have been altered to emphasize her face.



The Starbucks logos in action.

The Siren has been at the heart of the Starbucks logo for forty years. When the company was set up, the designer found a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid. The company founders believed she represented a seductive mystery mixed with a nautical theme and so she became the most important element of the mark. Her appearance has graphically become more sophisticated (yet simplified) with each iteration of the logo. Personally I like the new mark but I was very fond of the previous logo with the green ring, text and stars too so I’m still fully warming to it. I wonder if customers will find it as instantly recognizable as before?

What do you think about the new siren-only logo? Does it work?

  • Valerie Wilson

    Removing the company’s name is a questionable decision in my opinion. What were they thinking?!

    • Clark

      Starbuck’s brand power is pretty significant, the logo is still totally recognizable. I think the negative space with the white cup looks great.

    • Wouter

      I totally agree. Even though it’s a strong logo, they also want to get more footprint outside the U.S. I think the starbucks text is part of the brand and is much more recognizable than the one without text.

    • Edmund

      Any chance they’re telegraphing a major move beyond “coffee”? With a well known brand the dilemma is always what to do about brand extension. One path forward, if extension is as go, is to remove ‘hard-coded’ elements that will conflict with new lines of business. The words are gone and voila, Starbucks is no longer just about coffee! Earthy new lines of ice cream and earthy sandwiches anyone? Maybe I’m reading too much into this change, huh.

  • When Starbucks moved from the 1987 to the 1992 logo they were under strong pressure from both the far right and the far left to eliminate the sexually suggestive spread twin mermaid legs. The far right wanted the wanton lustful implication eliminated, while feminists on the left wanted to get rid of another example of the objectification of women’s bodies.
    Isn’t political correctness grand? I still like the 1987 logo the best and have a coffee storage container that has it on the front.

  • Raymond Phillips

    I agree with Valerie. Why take the company name off? You can take the word “COFFEE” off, because the cups and company are more than coffee.

  • Wil

    I think the new logo works quite well. The Starbucks siren is well known and the company has gone beyond being just a coffee place.

  • Chris

    I’m agree with Valerie. The contrast black/green is on my mind everytime Starbucks is mentioned. I even remember more the two stars next to the company’s name, instead of the siren. I’d have simplified the whole thing (without removing the known elements).

  • I am also wondering about the lack of a company name, but don’t think it will hurt them at this point as I feel most people know that graphic from their logo well enough at this point to know their name from just seeing it. Still I think I like their 1992 logo the best.

    It is interesting how logos change over time and I would like to see more posts like this.

  • Simplification of a logo is often a good thing, but I can’t help thinking “if it ain’t broke…” Has the company given a reason for the change?

  • Marilyn

    I don’t like the new version. I prefer the ring with the Starbucks Coffee text, from 1992.

  • Chris Beil

    Corporate blah, once again.
    What does the mermaid have to do with coffee – NO, I do NOT want ‘mermaids’, found art, or “seductive mystery” included in my cup of joe, EVER.
    I’d also like to ask why you failed to mention how the company really got started on a national level.

    • Dave

      Is there a story there? Maybe you should tell us.

  • Mark

    I don’t like the logo change at all, it feels cheap and unpolished. Nike, Apple and a few other iconic logos can pull it off, unlike the others that are screaming, “let’s be cool and drop the name”. It’s not quite as bad as the GAP logo, but all they did was drop the 2 outer rings and scale up the lady and make her a BIG green giant.

    Another epic fail… Caribou here I come!

  • Rob

    The black and green provided contrast, and that green ring with a black center is part of what caught my eye. I do like the actual face of the siren better.

    For all I’ve been a loyal customer over the years, the middle of the logo has always been “the black busy part that, if I look at it, suddenly becomes a picture”. So taking that part of their logo and projecting that in an even more iconic fashion is a slight miss, in my mind. They took the one part of their logo my brain wasn’t really parsing and made that the entire logo.

  • Yeah, probably OK, going from 2-color to 1-color probably saved a bundle, but the type made the image stronger. Wonder why a single color of the previous mark was rejected?

  • Laure

    I had liked the bit of black before. The new design has no balance. I don’t wike it.

  • I am in front of Starbucks now and very glad for the free wi-fi more than the brew. Removing the text from the logo widens the branding to include future non-caffeinated business ventures. I prefer the old logo because I like the illusion of a simple neighborhood cafe with a “Let me spoil you” cup of hospitality.

  • Is it me or does the new logo look slightly unfinished? Like it could be a simplified version of the previous logo on the back of the cup?
    Maybe I’m just so used to the previous 3 logos having the ring around them that it will take me a while to get used to.

    Personally I love the original full on frontal of the mermaid. Society today is so caught up in not offending this group or that group that it forgets the true meaning behind these ancient and beautiful symbolic drawings.

  • The shape, color and imagery of all the Starbucks logo are iconic and people know it well enough globally to remove the type.

    Well played SB, well played.

  • Lale Erguner

    I would also question the advisability of removing the company name. Starbucks is an international company now. I live in Turkey, and although we have quite a few Starbucks shops in Istanbul and other large cities, it is too new in my country and not well enough known for the logo to be recognized without the legend on it.

  • I’m not a regular at Starbucks but I recognized their logo. However I think dropping the type and making the supporting graphic the ‘star’ was a bad move. I see that Starbucks is now more than just coffee and agree the inclusion of the word coffee was a limiting factor, but I still believe the inclusion of the company name is important — without this the logo loooks simply unfinished. And I liked the two colours!

  • Nice to read about the history of the logo. The black in the logo is preferred

  • David Rooker

    no professional here, but the new logo is dull – no improvement in my sight.

  • Maybe it is because I’m from Seattle and grew up with Starbucks (and their logo), so the older logos make me nostalgic, BUT I don’t particularly like the new logo. I think that it looks unfinished. I liked the contrast of the black/green, and I think that the lack of the border/ring makes it look unpolished. It seems to lose all sense of warmth and becomes colder and more corporate (probably their intention as they expand beyond coffee?).

    I’m not a graphic designer by trade, so I’m curious – is minimalist design the new “in” type of design? I’m thinking of the Gap’s (brief) new logo, and NCB’s new logo (how could they get rid of the peacock?!), in particular.

    I was hoping Starbucks would have pulled out the vintage logos for a 40-year anniversary, or something (this year). Oh well.

  • martcol

    There are some aspects that please and some that don’t but my immediate impression was up. I don’t like the off-set circles and the face is characterless and those tail fins look like sinister pincer arm extensions to reach out in to the street and grab you to drag you in to buy a coffee. And if you don’t the siren will hold you upside down and shake the coins out of your pockets….

  • Chris Brocka

    The new logo looks more like a religious symbol than a business logo. The previous logo prompted me to get a cup of coffee, this one doesn’t.

  • …I wonder how much money they were charged for that “redesign”….

    “I know, lets remove the type, make it green, and charge them $50,000 for it!”

    LOL! ;)

    • kholden

      I would guess you can add an extra 0 to end of that price given the client they were working for! :)

      • Yeah, I think I would’ve dropped the word Coffee from the 1992 design and charged the $500,000 ;) Seriously, I preferred the 1992 logo.

  • I like the 1992 version better. It’s classy, while the new one is missing something.

    • Lave82

      1992 version to agree that the design is good.

  • The 1992 logo is the one of the best logos I have seen – I will really miss it and I really think in the words of the old adage “it wasn’t broke”

  • Maybe it’s just an economic thing….one color print :)

  • Lave82

    The original design is much better.
    I feel the emptiness is something that has changed the design.

  • Cthun30

    Removing the text ring and stars was a bad move. The stars suggested night (= extended hours, or enchantment – pick your metaphor), nostalgia (= woodcuts) and class, especially when combined with the mermaid.

    Now it just looks like… a stamp. You might as well replace it with the Ghostbusters logo. At least that expressed a sense of whimsy.

  • bob

    imho a bit to simplified… maybe the brandname is missing ? looks too cheap – regarding their pricing

  • Paul

    The 2011 Starbuck logo doesn’t cut it.

    The 1992’s one is already the best. It’s like Telecaster of Cafe’s Logo – all the cafe in the world have tried to imitate the look and feel of it, but none has come close to the Starbuck one ( 1992 )

    I feel sad for this change.

  • Inc Kris

    Thank You for this Information Provide for Us,
    Miss Jennifer

  • Roy

    Hi Jenn,
    Yes i agree with you. I like most the design of its 1992 version. With all its circles and stability of logo design. The latest version seem floating on air, bland and unstable of its symbology.

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