Starbucks Logo – Seeing Mermaids In Your Coffee? It Must Be Starbucks
Starbucks was established in Seattle, Washington in 1971. From the very beginning, the business had a logo that depicted a twin-tailed mermaid – known as a siren in Greek mythology – as the branding image of the store that sold “coffee, tea and spice.” Over the years the siren got toned down slightly but never lost her appeal.
The first logo featured a topless mermaid with a fully visible double tail. In fact, the company was originally named Pequod – the name of a whaling ship that was in the classic novel “Moby Dick” but the name was well, dare I say it? Not really brand-worthy for many reasons. I would think the obvious one would be having to explain where the name came from to those unfamiliar with classic literature.
So the company got named after the chief mate aboard the Pequod. His name was Starbuck. The three partners who founded the business – Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker – chose the twin-tailed mermaid/siren because of her reputation. In Greek mythology sirens would lure sailors to shipwreck in the South Pacific at a location apparently named Starbuck Island.
A New Starbucks Logo
In 1987 the siren got a slight politically-correct makeover that saw her alluring and flowing long hair cover her breasts. Although the fish tail got a slight cropping to it, her navel remained untouched. The most noticeable change well, minus the loss of the topless view of the mermaid, was the colour of the logo. It had been brown, likely to hint at a nice cup of brewed coffee. This version saw a drastic change from brown to green. Apparently that was done to acknowledge the three founders’ Alma Mater, the University of San Francisco.
Another New Starbucks Logo
Starbucks soon started changing their logo about as much as they did the roasting time of their coffee beans and items on the menu. In 1992 the siren suffered an even more politically correct change where not only were her breasts concealed, her navel had disappeared. The only hint of consistency from the original logo was the twin tail.
Well, that was until the coffee giant wanted to do a slight retro throwback to mark their 35th year in business. This was in 2006 when the original brown, topless, ‘naveled’ siren made another appearance. Sure, she may have been restricted to appear on the cups used at Starbucks locations and she reappeared again in 2008 but both times was met with criticism stemming from the topless view of what was essentially a drawing of a mythical being. In fact, in some of the countries in the world that Starbucks has been established had forced serious logo changes to where in at least one case – in Saudi Arabia – the siren does not appear at all, just her crown.
One More Starbucks Logo Change
It was in 2011 when the company announced they were going to make minor alterations to the Starbucks logo. In other words, after so much plastic surgery, it was now time for a bit of nipping and tucking. First to go was the Starbucks Coffee word marks which apparently confused the branding. Next, the siren image was enlarged and the background behind the siren, which had been black, was changed to green.
Better Have A Second Cup As There Is More
I have to admit that I can’t recall of too many corporate logos that have had so much retooling in such a relatively short period of time. The most recent round was clearly percolating somewhere in the background when the design firm Lippincott got involved. The approach they took sounded simple enough – break the siren out of the circle and reveal her personality.
By this time the coffee shop had become far more than just a place to get a cup of Joe. They had added baked goods and provided food for the breakfast and lunch crowd daily. Oh, and there were also well over 23,000 Starbucks locations worldwide with several at intersections and strip malls near you. What possibly inspired the need to tweak the already mauled mermaid logo?
Attempting To Give Her Human Qualities
That is essentially what the minds at Lippincott decided to do. After crafting a far-too-perfect – symmetrical – female face and torso, they went back to the drawing board. Likely fueled by caffeine, someone decided that in order to make The Siren, as she was now being referred to, more human she had to lose some of her perfect lines.
When I read that it makes me think of droopy eyelids and possibly a skin rash but those particular human qualities did not make the grade. Instead, The Siren ended up with some rounder details. You know, softening the rough edges. What happened was very subtle but if you compared the progressive logos during this process you would see slight changes that removed the ‘perfectness’ and replaced it with a more ‘realistic’ looking female representation of a creature that only exists in mythology.
So What Exactly Are They Brewing Up At Starbucks?
Hey, let’s face it. Good coffee is hard to find. A good coffee with a strong brand image is a slightly rarely combination. With the history of the Starbucks logo I’m a bit surprised they even bothered to keep tweaking. I suspect that in the next decade the Starbucks logo will end up tweaked a bit more and will eventually no longer look like a mermaid.
However, the other side of the coin is that twin-tailed, topless or not, The Siren is easily one of the most recognised logos in the world. Even though it has gone through a number of changes over the years. This shows you that sometimes a consistent product doesn’t always need a consistent logo. Well, not always.
You can bet that had the coffee gone through as many changes as the logo this blog post would have a slightly different tone and focus. But that’s really what helps to give an iconic brand its footing – a solid product. With Starbucks you know what you are in for long before you get into one of their coffee shops. The word Starbucks is so strong that it has been used as a verb to describe coffee. When that happens you know your brand has taste.
About The Author
Hi, I’m Toni Marino. Award-winning Freelance Graphic Designer, writer and digital marketer. Forward thinking clients from various industries worldwide have enlisted my help to support the growth of their brands. Whether your part of a multi-national company, an independent business venture, or something in between, I would love to hear from you and together we can earn the trust of your future business prospects.
Credits: Starbucks, Lippincott, Terry Heckler