A Look at the Future of Starbucks
Howard Schultz, our ceo, explains our evolving identity.
Howard Schultz, our ceo, discusses the evolution of the Starbucks brand, as we get ready to celebrate our 40th Anniversary
On Tuesday, March 8, Starbucks marks its 40th year – and as part of the celebration, we’ll start rolling out the new logo we announced a few months back.
The first place you’ll probably see the new logo is on the cup of your favorite beverage. It could be a while before the signage in your neighborhood store is changed – it takes a while to update 16,500 stores!
For communication professionals and design nerds like me, this is an exciting time. Watching the reaction to any new logo is fascinating, because people can hold such passionate attachments to these marks. The comments on our Facebook page and blog posts were decidedly mixed – some of you don’t like the new look at all, some of you think you’ll love it once you get used to it. (Honestly, that was pretty much the reaction we were expecting.) The verdict from the design community has generally been more positive, and even the voice behind the hilarious (but fake) Gap Logo Twitter account lent support.
For those of you who aren’t sold on the new mark, all I ask is this: give it time. As you start to see it out in the world, I hope you’ll start to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of the new design. I like the new mark because I feel that we’ve unleashed the Siren, a mythological figure who represents the romance and creativity that inspired the founders of Starbucks 40 years ago. I hope that unleashing that energy – that mojo – will keep us (and you) inspired for the next 40 years.
We’ve always believed the best days of Starbucks are ahead of us. So we’re excited to share with you where we’re going.
Nearly forty years ago – in a small retail space in Seattle’s Pike Place Market – Starbucks began its journey as a roaster and retailer of high-quality coffees from around the world. Back then, we sold only whole bean coffee – we wouldn’t begin offering espresso beverages in our stores until more than a decade later – but the Siren was as much a part of the Starbucks story as she is today.
When we first heard about the possibility of modifying the Starbucks brand identity, our minds went wild with the possibilities. This was the project of a lifetime. The designers here at Starbucks have such a love for this brand – it’s what drives our creativity.
From the start, we wanted to recognize and honor the important equities of the iconic Starbucks logo. So we broke down the four main parts of the mark – color, shape, typeface and the Siren. After hundreds of explorations, we found the answer in simplicity. Removing the words from the mark, bringing in the green, and taking the Siren out of her ring. For forty years she’s represented coffee, and now she is the star.
The details came next. The 20-year old logo was built in the early days of AutoTrace and it showed – points everywhere. We improved composition, brought in more sophisticated stroke width and spacing and a smoother line flow. When it came to her – the Siren – we enhanced her form in subtle ways, smoothing her hair, refining her facial features, weighting the scales on her tail to bring the focus to her face. We enlisted the branding firm of Lippincott to help with these refinements, and give us a better global perspective on the entire identity system.
The result is an evolved logo that celebrates the Siren in a much bolder way – it’s more expressive and energetic and still uses the same vibrant green circle that is so well recognized by our customers around the world.
Great question. It’s one we kept asking ourselves during the evolution of our logo (and yes, that’s right, a writer was involved in a logo project). We all needed to really, deeply understand for ourselves who she is.
So, a little history.
Let’s go all the way back to 1971, to when Starbucks was first coming to be. In a search for a way to capture the seafaring history of coffee and Seattle’s strong seaport roots, there was a lot of poring over old marine books going on. Suddenly, there she was: a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid, or Siren. There was something about her – a seductive mystery mixed with a nautical theme that was exactly what the founders were looking for. A logo was designed around her, and our long relationship with the Siren began.
Over the last 40 years we’ve made some changes to that identity. Now we’re doing that again, to keep ourselves relevant as we evolve without ever losing sight of our heritage. But the Siren has always been there. She is at the heart of Starbucks.
As a writer, though, I can tell you that there is a lot more to her than just the design and how she looks. This is what she means to me, and to us.
She is a storyteller, carrying the lore of Starbucks ahead, and remembering our past. In a lot of ways, she’s a muse –always there, inspiring us and pushing us ahead.
And she’s a promise too, inviting all of us to find what we’re looking for, even if it’s something we haven’t even imagined yet.
She means something different to every one who sees her, who knows her. For me she’s kind of the final say on the spirit of everything I write and everything we do. Even as I’m writing this, I wonder what she thinks. (She likes it, by the way.)
Here we are today. Our new evolution liberates the Siren from the outer ring, making her the true, welcoming face of Starbucks. For people all over the globe, she is a signal of the world’s finest coffee – and much more. She stands unbound, sharing our stories, inviting all of us in to explore, to find something new and to connect with each other. And as always, she is urging all of us forward to the next thing. After all, who can resist her?