This website uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience.
You accept that by continuing to use it .
By using, you accept our use of cookies .



Logo analysis: Starbucks, from neighborhood coffee roaster to giant
When it comes to coffee, one name quickly comes to mind: "Starbucks". From the American classic Moby Dick to the little lies about the origins of the mermaid, jump in for brief summary.
By Sylvain Denans
January 15, 2021
Share this article on
article image
Coffee, the nectar that helps many people around the world get through the early part of the week, promotes encounters and, according to legend, ruins young adults who spend their meager earnings on expensive cups.

In this small world, Starbucks is a giant. Founded in 1971 as a coffee bean retailer in Seattle, the company is now the world's largest coffee chain, with more than 31000 stores in 76 countries. The Starbucks logo and cups have a recognizable appearance, invariably attracting curiosity. The mermaid icon is one of the best known and most popular consumer logos, especially in North America. It is no exaggeration to say that this image has contributed to the success and growth of the company, capturing the attention of passers-by around the world.

The brand has long used marketing to continue its growth and introduce its products in new countries. In the late 1990s, when it was still a small North American coffee chain, it was already using product placements in popular movies and series to expand its customer base. As a result, its cups and logo were discovered in Europe, where it is now as well known as in its home country.

Starbucks transformed a popular beverage into a luxury drink with the support of relentless marketing, far from the spirit of the first store opened in 1971 and announced by a simple little wooden sign. From a simple neighborhood roaster to a mastodon controlling a portion of the world's coffee production, how did their logo evolve?
Starbucks Logo - History and Origin Starbucks was founded in Seattle on March 30, 1971, by three partners: Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker. At the time, it was one of Seattle's many waterfront roasters looking for a way to stand out from the competition while conveying the maritime spirit. According to the official version, the three collaborators decided to hire a consultant, Terry Heckler, for this task, who, by rummaging through old seafaring books, finally spotted an emblem based on a 16th-century Norse woodcut, in the shape of a two-tailed mermaid.

Greek mythology told that mermaids lured sailors to shipwreck - a welcome analogy for a small brand wishing to attract coffee lovers to its lair.

The company was originally to be named "Cargo House" or "Pequod" after a ship from Herman Melville's "Moby Dick". But the name was unusual, to say the least, and Terry Heckler was able to convince the trio to change the company name to "Starbucks", Pequod's first companion.
From 1971 to 1987, the small company sold loose coffee, tea, spices, but also coffee machines, cups... enough to "educate" Seattle consumers by introducing them to quality coffee, a concept still unclear in North America at the time. In the midst of the hippie culture, the three associates participate in the management of the store in their own way; working during the day and roasting coffee at night for one, as store manager for the other and as marketing manager for the last. A second store is opened in 1972, a third in 1975, reaching four stores plus a roasting unit in 1980, with ten employees...and a growing willingness on the part of Zev Siegl to step back.
At the end of 1981, Baldwin and Bowker, now alone at the helm after the Siegl stock buyout, received an original proposal from an employee of one of their suppliers: he noticed the increase in orders, realized the potential of Starbucks and offered them the opportunity to join the brand as marketing director, even if it meant cutting his salary by three. The offer was timely; Howard Schultz was quickly hired to give new impetus to the company's development.

It was he who gave the brand a national and then international dimension, successfully testing the sale of takeaway coffees in the company's sixth store. After refusing to expand the concept out of ideology and because they believed Starbucks should remain a small company, after a period of hesitation and the resignation of Howard Schultz in 1986 to create his own establishment, the founders of Starbucks ultimately sold him the stores and the name a year later, in 1987.

After the takeover, the original name "Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice" was shortened to "Starbucks Coffee", the brand specialized in the sale of take-away coffees and began a very aggressive development, with nearly three stores open daily since 1987. With the exponential increase in popularity of Starbucks, its logo is now one of the world's best-known symbols.
Starbucks Logo - Evolution The Starbucks logo has always been easily recognizable thanks to its distinctive design and judicious use of color. Whatever the year, the design is invariably based on a circular pattern, and they all bear a certain resemblance; each logo represents an evolution of the other, never a revolution.

1971 - The original Starbucks logo depicts a mermaid, topless, with a crown, double fishtail and belly button fully visible. This is the first time this motif has been used, found according to official history on a 16th-century Norse woodcut, most likely in a European book about Melusina, a fairy found in several medieval works.

The style is already very close to today's logo, with the two circular rings around the legendary figure and the name of the company written in capital letters. The only major difference is the color: everything is in a brown palette, to recall the color of coffee.
1987 - The second version of the Starbucks logo was designed in 1987. This logo still depicts the nude mermaid, even though her chest is now hidden by her loose hair, and is drawn in a much more stylized manner. The "new" company name appears inside the circle in large capital letters; some words disappear. But the most visual impact is the replacement of the brown with a green that is now very much associated with the brand. At the time, it was supposed to represent the freshness, growth and success of the company, recently acquired by former Starbucks marketing director Howard Schultz.

The color actually comes from the logo of the company "Il Giornale", founded by Howard Schultz a year prior and merged with Starbucks during the takeover.
1992 - The third iteration of the Starbucks logo shows a close-up view of the siren with an ever simpler design. The 1987 logo's belly button disappeared when zoomed in and only the fish's tails remained visible. You can bet that many children of that time confused them with hands! The rest of the logo is largely intact, it still has the company name in capital letters, the two stars and the color green. It's probably the version with the least amount of visual change.
2000, Saudi Arabia - When Starbucks entered the Saudi Arabian market in September 2000, the brand followed the advice of its Kuwaiti partners and preferred to use a logo without a mermaid so as not to offend local traditions. Two years later, in April 2002, the siren finally reappeared on the chain's signs and cups after receiving approval from the religious police. Ancient Saudi mugs are now highly sought-after collector's items!
2011 - To mark the company's 40th anniversary, Lippincott, a respected creative consulting firm, has partnered with Starbucks' in-house design team to bring a new logo to life. This new version is a simpler variation of the old designs, as the company name, stars, and double outer circles have been completely removed. The siren is still present, and has been retouched only on almost imperceptible details.

Officially, the removal of the name has offered the brand the freedom and flexibility to move away from coffee. The image of the siren is now so well known that it is no longer necessary to have a name associated with the logo for the public to recognize the brand. Nike or Mercedes have made the same deduction in the past and came to the same conclusion.

This logo has not been enthusiastically received, neither by designers nor consumers, and the brand has been severely criticized for this change. Yet, whether on t-shirts, websites and other commercial objects, this logo is a must and seems to fit perfectly. The critics never questioned its intrinsic qualities, but it simply suffered from replacing a much-appreciated logo that did not need to be changed.
Future - Ironically, the 2011 design made funny predictions about what the company logo might look like in the future, simplifying the design with each new iteration. We'll have to see in a few years if these predictions were accurate!
Starbucks Logo - Design Elements Color
The popular Starbucks logo features a pretty prairie green, now widely associated with the brand. The closest Pantone color is "3425 C", although this reference is not official.
The first version of the logo featured a font called "Futura Medium", a classic among sans serif fonts. Later versions of the Starbucks logo used a custom, bolder font. Today, the company uses three fonts depending on the circumstances: "Sodo Sans", "Lander" and "Pike". The best known, which is the one used on the logo, is "Sodo Sans Black".
Officially, the iconic Starbucks logo is a design by Terry Heckler, who, while researching old books about the sea, discovered the icon of the two-tailed mermaid, based on a 16th-century Norse woodcut.

The problem? By the time woodcut images first appeared in medieval Europe, around 1400, there was no one left who could be called "Norse". Oops!

It is much more likely that the three businessmen, looking for a symbol for their new café, turned to the American edition of Juan Eduardo Cirlot's Dictionary of Symbols - whose second edition was, coincidentally, published a few weeks before the opening of the first Starbucks, and which, by chance, contains a drawing almost identical to the said logo on page 297! Let's bet that the company simply wanted to make this story of discovery a little more attractive.

This mermaid, called a Melusina in Europe, is found in many medieval tales, often depicted with a crown and double tail in its Germanic version. There are also traces of close drawings in Italy, Venice or in the cathedral of Otranto in the province of Lecce, on a mosaic dating from the twelfth century.

Nevertheless, thanks to its unique design and complex features, this icon remains one of the most memorable modern emblems.
If you too would like to follow in the footsteps of Starbucks and create your own café, you can count on us to help you. We have developed a generator that can create the perfect logo automatically using artificial intelligence, come and see it on! Developed by real graphic designers and validated by real professionals, it will allow you to create your logo in less than a minute for a fraction of the real cost of a graphic designer. It's revolutionary and we're very proud of it!
Follow Sylvain on


All Rights Reserved - DocLogo 2020 -

Facebook | Twitter | VKontakte