Starbucks needs no introduction but just in case: Founded in 1971 in Seattle, Starbucks is the world’s leading coffee retailer with more than 16,000 stores in 50 countries (this despite numerous closings in the last year or so). Starbucks also manages Tazo tea, Ethos water, and Seattle’s Best Coffee. And, part of the reason why we are here today, Starbucks sells more than coffee and its stores offer more than coffee (Wiiii-Fiiii says I in an Oprah wail). Yesterday, Starbucks announced that beginning in March, to coincide with their 40th anniversary, their brand would be making a bold visual evolution. Namely (pun intended) dropping its name from the logo. The new identity has been developed in-house — Starbucks has one of the strongest internal teams in a big corporation — in partnership with Lippincott.
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.
Mike P., senior creative manager
This is obviously a big deal. Not just because of the change itself but because of what it represents logistically: all those 16,000 stores and all those hundreds of products need to be updated with the new look, aka lots of money spent. The change being relatively subtle can make some people really angry about the cost of implementing it. Store signs notwithstanding, the changes will be phased in over the year and will likely fall in the cycle of production as new packaging and promotions are needed.
Another big complaint is that, OMG, the Starbucks name is not there anymore. Chill people. The name will appear somewhere in the vicinity of the new siren-based logo. It won’t be directly around it, but you can rest assured that if you are walking on the street or browsing an aisle in the grocery store you will see “STARBUCKS” spelled out somewhere. Nike does it. Apple does it. Target does it. It’s not that hard to create a link between an icon and a name. Tangential to the name being dropped is the concern that the siren is not a recognizable enough icon to stand on its own. Please. It is. It just happens to have been dwarfed by the relatively enormous Futura name around it all these years. I would bet my daily morning Starbucks coffee (brewed at home) that the siren will not have any problem establishing itself as a Nike swoosh or Apple apple within one or two years. With the amount of bandwidth that Starbucks occupies in the visual landscape, no one will confuse the siren as it being the icon for a hair salon, tiara manufacturer, or mermaid depot.
Now to the actual result: This is a fantastic, confident evolution. If you look at the image of the coffee cups above you realize how clunky the old logo was and just how extraneous its many elements were. It went from four circles/rings to one. It went from two colors to one. It went from three stars to one. Perfect simplification without losing the essence of the brand. That new cup design alone elevates the identity to an actual lifestyle brand more than a retail brand. It has a newfound sophistication that would have been impossible to achieve before.
Come March it will be interesting to see how the identity system evolves. As hard as I tried this time around to get some additional images no one budged. But I sense there is some interesting executions waiting to be implemented.
Lastly: Please, for those comparing this to Gap (looking at you Reuters, Daily News, et al), don’t. It’s not even close and hopefully the media and the consumer can stop asking for every single redesign to pull a Gap and return to whatever was before or next thing you know we will be driving horse buggies again and afraid of any kind of evolution.