Sunday, April 13, 2008

Old School is the New New School?

Love it or hate it, Starbucks has positioned itself as a giant in today's business world. Despite ourselves, we all know what "tall, grande, and venti" mean and if you're like me, sometimes you need to catch yourself before using that terminology at Dunkin' Donuts. Since I am a member of Starbucks society (for better or worse) and a designer, it is kind of odd that I have never given much consideration to their logo! That is, until this week.

Last Tuesday Starbucks advertised that "something big" would be happening at their stores at noon. Turns out that meant free samples of their Pike Place Roast, and, along with it, a return to the company's original logo design and brown color. Pike Place, Starbucks' flagship store in Seattle (above), has been using this woodcut logo consistently since the company was born in 1973. This original logo, featuring a topless siren (a mermaid-like woman with a split tail), was originally used as a symbol for something as seductive as coffee itself. However, it was too suggestive for many customers and as a result the logo has been simplified over the years, every time by the original designer Terry Heckler. This gradual simplification resulted in the version we know so well today.
Will this hearkening back to the original logo reinforce Starbucks' reputation for a good brew? Starbucks is calling the move a Nostalgia Effort, a return to the company's heritage for those who are turned off by its big chain image. But for those who love the successful green version don't fret. The change is only temporary and the company will switch back in mid-May.

7 comments:

Meghan B said...

I HATE IT. It makes me so uncomfortable. I like that it is brown, and i like the wood cut style, but if they could just crop out those fins! She's like a contortionist! Not even a fish should bend like that!! Grosses me out.

Meghan Colvin said...

I'm with Meghan on this one. Definitely makes me uncomfortable. However, did you notice that they covered her up a bit in the new version of the old logo? kind of funny... that starbucks...so scandelous.

Sarah Martin said...

I think I could draw the Starbuck logo in my sleep. I think back to all the countless art history classes, with my grande nonfat latte, aimlessly coping the logo in my notebook.

nepacena said...

Thanks for the historical explanation. I was VERY concerned about the change and I don't even like Starbucks. The brown coloring just doesn't do it for me either. Thank goodness it's only temporary!

Jessica said...

Although I never before even noticed that the logo was a mermaid (I'm perceptive), I am now totally enthralled. And the new/old logo IS a bit suggestive!I guess I can deal with it if it's all that stands between me and my iced white mocha?

Sarah said...

I'm going to say: I don't hate it! In fact, I like it. I love anything having to do with the ocean and the whole mythology behind sirens. The more I read into, the more interesting I find it.

It's also interesting to see how logos develop over time and how people's attitudes can change forcing companies to reevaluate what is at the base of their branding.

Love it or hate it, people are talking about it and there is no such thing as bad publicity. Another interesting blog on this topic: http://www.deadprogrammer.com/starbucks-logo-mermaid?page=1

Nora said...

I was so thrown yesterday when I saw someone walking around with the new/old Starbucks cup! I was thrilled to see Tess's explanation! Thank you, Crew Designers for keeping us so well informed!