The Starbucks Logo: The Evolution Of The Brand + 10 Fun Facts

June 29, 2022

By: Ryan Lau

The Starbucks Logo: The Evolution Of The Brand + 10 Fun Facts

The Starbucks craze means that today, the green siren of the Starbucks logo can be found in nearly every workplace, university classroom, and school in North America.

Starbucks is now the fifty-year-old cornerstone of North America’s coffee shop culture. This Seattle-based pioneer in the coffee industry has grown to be found on nearly every street corner and in countries around the globe.

As one of the first of its kind in North America, Starbucks has dictated what a coffee shop is and should be for the last half century.

How did this company grow its brand, its experience, and the recognition of its now famous green lady to almost every corner of society?

A Blast From The Past: The History Behind Starbucks

In 1970, Jerry Baldwin, a student at USF, was traveling through Italy when he tried a cappuccino that tasted completely different from what he was used to.

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Coffee in America at that time was mainly just instant coffee from a can or low-quality coffee from a diner. Baldwin was instantly hooked on this new type of coffee. Upon his return to America, he decided to open a store to sell high-quality, roasted coffee beans in his hometown of Seattle.

The First Few Wholesale Stores In Seattle


In 1971, the first Starbucks store was opened by Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker. Initially, they sold not only coffee but tea and spices as well. This store initially sold only roasted coffee beans and the equipment needed to make them into coffee.

They offered samples of coffee to try, but at that time, there were no coffee beverages to officially sell. That wouldn’t happen until over a decade later.

The store did well and slowly grew over the next decade until, in 1981, they had four stores, all in their home city of Seattle. The coffee and equipment were selling so well that it grabbed the attention of Howard Schultz.

Schultz was the vice president of a New York-based company that supplied the Starbucks store with its coffee-making equipment. He was interested in how much coffee equipment Starbucks was ordering, so he decided to look into it.

After visiting, Schultz immediately wanted to join the group, but was unanimously denied by the founding trio. It wasn’t until over a year later that Schultz was able to join the Starbucks team.

In order, Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker. (Howard Schultz is not pictured.) | Source
In order, Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker. (Howard Schultz is not pictured.) | Source

Later, on a trip to Italy, he too became hooked on Italian coffee. But not only that. He also said he was “captured by the sense of community, the third place between home and work”. It became his dream to add this new place and experience to American society.

Unfortunately, the Starbucks founders quickly denied his idea of having Starbucks start selling individual cups of coffee, as it was too dramatic a departure from what they were doing. Thus, in 1985, Schultz left Starbucks to start his own company, Il Giornale (the newspaper), and realize his dream.

Schultz’s Takeover Of America’s First Coffee Shop

Howard Schultz | Source
Howard Schultz | Source

A mere two years later, the original three founders, spread thin and running low on funds, wanted to sell Starbucks and offered Schultz the opportunity to buy them out. So, in 1987, Schultz purchased Starbucks and completely redesigned the business model to align with his dream of selling coffee by the cup in one of the first coffee shops in America.

In doing so, he completely reimagined what Starbucks was and completely changed the Starbucks logo to match. They moved from a brown color palette to one with the now widely recognizable green logo. After this merger, Starbucks rapidly grew, expanding from 46 locations in 1989 to 140 in 1992 when Starbucks went public!

Starbucks opened its first international Starbucks in 1996 in Tokyo, Japan. Soon it had locations worldwide, in Mexico, Australia, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. Now it has expanded to have locations spread in 83 countries around the world.

Nearly ever since its founding, the company has seen massive growth, with Starbucks having opened 539 stores in the first three months of 2020 alone, adding to a total of 32,660 Starbucks locations.

Throughout the years, Starbucks has developed a few quirks and secrets.

10 Fun Facts About Starbucks You Never Expected

Ready to have your jaw dropped? These are 10 fun facts about the Starbucks logo and brand that will truly shock you.

They Brought Back Their Original Logo In 2008

First Starbucks logo compared to current logo | Source
First Starbucks logo compared to current logo | Source

In 2008, the original Starbucks logo was brought back to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its founding.

They changed the colour from green back to brown and brought back the original Siren (however, they removed the “and spice” from the logo, so it wasn’t entirely the same).

This change received massive backlash from the public, as the new logo had become so well known amongst their customers that they couldn’t accept the older 1971 version. It just goes to show how powerful branding can be and the importance of a good logo!

Starbucks Wasn’t Always Called Starbucks

At first, it was called Pequod, after the whaling ship in Moby Dick! The ship’s chief mate was Starbuck, the eventual namesake, which they chose after realizing Pequod wasn’t quite as catchy as imagined. They chose his name since, according to 1970s advertising theory, the prefix “st” was a powerful and recognizable one.

Starbucks Banned Smoking Before it Was Illegal

To preserve the strong, dark, rich coffee smell that pervades all of its stores, Starbucks actually banned smoking well before it was the law! This ban was because coffee beans readily absorb odours, and it’s easy for them to be tainted with other smells.

Similarly, Starbucks prevents its employees from using colognes and perfumes, and strong-smelling foods (like soups) aren’t sold. All of this to protect the primary smell in the stores, coffee.

They Didn’t Always Use Pens To Take Orders

There weren’t always sharpie pens for noting how the cup was to be made. Instead, how the cup was positioned would tell the barista what the customer wanted.

A flaw with this was that a strong breeze or a clumsy mistake could ruin all of the orders! Thus, the transition to sharpies was made. This transition also allowed for the addition of the customer’s name to the drink, thus adding the signature personalization to each drink.

Their Cups Aren’t Actually Recycled

While they do have the recycling symbol on the cup, the sealant used on the inside of the cardboard cup is not easily removed.

While it is technically possible to recycle them, no one does because of how difficult it is and the specialty equipment that is needed! That said, they are beginning to introduce new pilot programs to reduce their waste.

The Apron Colors Are Important

While the traditional green one is well known, those who graduated from the Starbucks College Achievement Plan can have a mortarboard embroidered on it. Additionally, purple aprons are worn by each year’s barista champions, of which there are only 26!

Furthermore, black aprons are given out only to coffee masters, the highest level of barista at Starbucks. There are also other specialty aprons for specific events and red aprons for the holiday season!

The Tables Are Round To Prevent Loneliness

Starbucks tables | Source
Starbucks tables | Source

According to Karen Blumenthal, a Wall Street Journal veteran, round tables are more welcoming. People also look less alone when sitting by themselves at a circular table than at a squared-off one.

Starbucks Acts Like A Bank

Starbucks has become the most popular restaurant rewards app, with 41% of users in North America paying with a Starbucks card. This means a total of $1.5 billion was held in the Starbucks system. This is more than 85% of banks with assets of less than $1 billion.

This money is essentially a 1.5 billion-dollar loan that Starbucks can invest in or build more stores with until customers redeem their money or forget about it.

Tall Was Originally The Largest Size

Have you ever thought that it was odd that the tall size is the smallest? Well, that wasn’t always the case. Originally, only two sizes were available, with the 8-ounce short being one of them and the 12-ounce tall being the other.

As customers wanted larger and larger drinks, the grande, and then the venti, were announced. And finally, an even larger size, trenta (31 ounces), was recently unveiled for iced coffee and iced teas.

Even the CIA Has A Starbucks

Although originally founded in the US, the city with the most Starbucks stores is located in Seoul, South Korea. That said, the most interesting location is probably the one that is found in the CIA’s headquarters at Langley, Virginia.

Some other fascinating store locations can be found in a castle in Prague, a bank in Amsterdam, and an old car dealership in Seattle!

The versions of the Starbucks logo design

Starbucks' ability to create a brand that stands out and is easily recognized is due in large part to the cohesiveness of its visual identity. But could the famous design be reimagined?

Design similar versions of the Starbucks logo below and take them home for free!

Starbucks logo variation
Click the image to customize this logo
Starbucks logo variation
Click the image to customize this logo

Thanks to a few subtle tweaks, we now have not one but two Starbucks logo variations to take inspiration from.

The Starbucks Logo Evolution Through The Years

Since its creation in 1971, the Starbucks logo evolution has been on-point with multiple iterations, each time refining and building off of the previous versions. Though the Starbucks logo history may be fascinating, today, it is one of the most famous logos in the world. Each logo has a specific intention and reasoning behind its design, with the centrepiece, the siren, being the common theme.

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The Original Brown Logo: 1971 To 1987

1971 - 1987
1971 - 1987

You may be asking, why the name Starbucks? Why a siren? Well, the name Starbucks was initially inspired by the seafaring classic Moby Dick, specifically the coffee-loving first mate, Starbuck.

They Starbucks logo meaning drew inspiration from Moby Dick as they wanted to have a close association with the sea, just like their founding city, Seattle, and the coffee beans themselves, which have to travel long distances over the ocean.

The reason for the choice of a Siren, a two-tailed mythical mermaid, is still shrouded in mystery. Still, some think that it’s because coffee can sometimes act as a siren would, drawing many customers in for a hot (or iced!) cup of coffee. Howard Schultz later said in his book that the siren “was supposed to be as seductive as coffee itself”.

The first Starbucks logo was created with these central themes, dominated by a brown and white color palette and a scandalously exposed upper body. This Starbucks old logo was ringed by their wares, “Coffee, Tea, and Spices.” The brown color was meant to represent nature, nurture and stability, as well as the coffee they were primarily known for.

A Starbucks Logo That We Recognize: 1987 To 1992

1987 - 1992
1987 - 1992

You may be wondering, "Why did Starbucks change their logo?" Following the acquisition of the Starbucks brand by Schultz, a brand new and fully redesigned logo was created for the brand. This mirrored the new direction that the shop would go in and was the birth of the Starbucks we know today.

The new Starbucks logo, designed by Terry Heckler, redesigned the siren and radically shifted the brand colors from brown to the now well-known green, symbolizing growth and prosperity. This colour shift was due to the melding of Il Giornale (Shultz’s coffee store) and Starbucks.

The new logo took Il Giornale’s color palette and the siren from the old Starbucks logo. Additionally, two stars were added, making the logo highly symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing. This new color palette would be the one that Starbucks would continue with.

A Minor Refresh: 1992 To 2011

1992 - 2011
1992 - 2011

This year heralded a refresh of the logo design, albeit with only minor adjustments. The siren was updated, and her image was adjusted to focus on her face and upper torso, with only the tips of the twin tails being visible.

They kept the words ringed around the siren, increasing her prominence, and keeping the historical round design. They also slightly altered the typeface, modernizing it. Surprisingly, this version is still used as a secondary Starbucks logo to this day.

The Current Starbucks Logo: 2011 Onwards

2011 - current
2011 - current

The Starbucks logo history comes to fruition with its current logo. Forty years on from the origin of the first logo, the design was once again entirely rethought. In collaboration with a New York-based creative consultancy, Lippincott, Starbucks underwent a complete logo redesign.

The name Starbucks Coffee was removed altogether, with the iconic and recognizable siren and color palette being enough to make the brand identifiable. With the siren being the focus, her face was adjusted, increasing its size. Shading near her left eyebrow added a slight asymmetry, causing the siren to appear more human and approachable.

This new Starbucks logo meaning was done since designers believe that people are not attracted to human perfection, seeing it as a mask rather than a person. With this, the Starbucks logo of today was introduced.

The Current Starbucks Logo: What's The Symbolism Behind It?

What is the symbolism behind the icon, text, shape, and color of the Starbucks logo design? Keep reading to find out.

The Siren and The Text

From very early on in the company’s history, Starbucks incorporated visual branding into its identity. The siren has been a central focus of the Starbucks logo since its inception, and the green and white color palette has been synonymous with Starbucks for more than three decades.

The logo has become such a part of the Starbucks brand that the company’s name was no longer necessary! As Steve Murray, the Creative Director of the Starbucks global creative studio, once said about the siren: “She’s the biggest symbol of our brand.

Having the siren as the centrepiece of the Starbucks logo allowed for the formation of a strong brand presence in America and worldwide. The unique image of a siren also increased brand recognition and came to define the brand.

That said, it is important to consider the mixed interpretations of a siren. Both the Greek tales about Sirens and the Scottish ones of Melusine (both two-tailed mermaids) have beautiful fronts and evil undertones, which some liken to Starbucks.

Melusine in stone | Source
Melusine in stone | Source

While Starbucks hasn’t had any major repercussions from this unsavoury past, it is important to consider the history of images when designing a logo and mascot.

The decision to go for a textless logo has allowed it to be even more universally recognized, which is essential for such a large company. This came at the cost of brand recognition.

However, their commitment to a unique and recognizable logo since their founding meant this wasn’t a significant issue. Removing the word “coffee” from the logo allowed the company to expand to more than just the beverage it originally became famous for.

The Shape and Color

The current, as well as all of the past Starbucks logos, have a circular shape. Circles are known to symbolize stability and collaboration, as well as being a sign of perseverance and time. These are all attributes which Starbucks aims to stand for.

Also, as mentioned briefly earlier, green symbolizes growth and prosperity. It also reflects its connection to the earth and the coffee beans. The latest update to the Starbucks logo made the green color more prominent, with the background often being whatever the logo is printed upon.

Final Thoughts

Throughout its development, Starbucks was able to recognize times that required change and update its logo and branding accordingly. They moved with the times and the growth of their brand while never losing their core brand, the green colour scheme (the siren) and their heritage.

Over time, they moved from their original brown emblem to the green as they began to sell coffee drinks instead of just the beans. They eventually chose to lean even more heavily into the green colour scheme and remove the ringed wording completely.

They were able to do this, increasing their global marketability, thanks to their heavy commitment to brand recognition from the very beginning. An initially creative choice to have a siren as the main piece of their logo has, over time, turned into their image.

Through many renditions and perfections, including the addition of their now famous green colour palette, the logo has been made into the global image it is today. Now that the siren stands for Starbucks, it must live up to the reputation and brand that have been created behind it!

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