This morning I went to Starbucks for a morning coffee. While sitting on the couch, waiting for my order, I started dissecting the elements of a banner detailing the latest Frappuccino Happy Hour deal.
I tore my eyes away from the decadent Caffè Espresso Frappuccino and focused on the block of bright purple colors that looked like a fat ray of delight bursting from the straw. Then I looked at the woman in the logo. I wondered about her and how that logo came about.
Months back, my friend told me that it was a mermaid. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous. I argued it was clearly a girl with long hair surrounded by leaves of some sort to represent the coffee plants. I said a two-tailed mermaid was ridiculous. A quick Google search proved her story to be so, so I shrugged it off and didn’t investigate further. However, recently I took a document design class so I started thinking a little more about logos. Seeing the mermaid, I decided to investigate her story.
According to the Starbucks site, it turns out that the mermaid, or Siren, came about around in 1971 when the business was starting up. Looking for a way to connect with the Seattle’s seaport history, the company settled on a “16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid.” I feel this move was brilliant. Not only are coffee’s ties to the sea established, it matched perfectly on a different level. What happens when you walk by a coffee shop? You’re tempted by the warmth and the odors to go in; the coffee silently calls, attracting unsuspecting passerby — much like a mermaid. Like a mermaid’s song, it’s very easy to fall under Starbucks’ spell.
Although it’s easy to see why I got confused because we can no longer see the body of the mermaid on current logos. Why might they have changed it? To widen their horizons. According to the Brand Autopsy blog, it was to visually show “freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee, but make no mistake … we will continue to be the world’s leading purveyor of the highest-quality coffee.” Not only that, it appeals to a greater audience, even people that are not so connected to the sea, yet retains the connection to the past.
The 2011 logo demonstrates the trend of simplification I’ve seen with logos and designs in general. I’m not sure how they might improve or change it in the future. Perhaps they can cut it in half or have her move. Perhaps they could turn her into a GIF of a mermaid backing up and swimming in loops because I foresee electronic menus. I’m not sure if they’d want to mess with colors. I definitely am looking forward to the next revision, but I don’t think it’s going to be anytime soon.