Try taking a walk in New York without bypassing a Starbucks. Seriously, try– I dare you! Starbucks coffeehouses are so ubiquitous this task would almost certainly be impossible. The truth is, this is not just a New York thing, I was just trying to make the point relevant. Starbucks is the largest coffee distributor in the world and exist all over cities across the country as well as a global expansion. Before getting to the company’s origin, branding and success, a closer look will be taken at the company’s most simple, unique and important graphic representation: the logo.
Even considering the relatively low level of advertising done by such a large company, the omnipresent storefronts and ubiquitous coffee cups have exposed us all to the logo countless times. While one would assume the logo designers had no idea how many people would eventually see their work, it is obvious a lot of thought went into its design. This is apparent not just in the elements included and their symbology which will be tackled later on, but also the placement of everything, all contributing to an overall balance.
The logo has undergone a few revisions since the original was released, but the basics remained consistent. In the original, as in the next version and the current version, the basic shape is circular with the company name surrounding an image in the center. Whether the image is that of a mermaid, a siren or something else is up for debate, but for now, the composition is our focus and the content will be discussed later. The original logo showed the mermaid/siren in its entirety, surrounded by concentric circles containing the name. This circular shape is seemingly placed atop a rectangle. The Law of Simplicity and the Law of Completeness suggest this is the case rather than the overall outline being comprised of simply one shape. It is uncertain whether they changed the logo to make it more simple, but whether or not it was their motivation, it was a solution they met. Reducing the complex shape to one of a circle reduces any extraneous elements and makes the logo more simple. The parsimonious approach reduces the outline to the simplest visual pattern– the primordial circle.
Although the original illustration of the mermaid/siren was replaced with a less complex line drawing, it remains the dominant item on ...
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...oo complex for anyone to make a simple connection between the logo and the company. Without the word “COFFEE” on the logo, one would have no idea what the company provided. Luckily for Starbucks, they do not have to worry about anyone not knowing what they produce. If starting from scratch, I might suggest the designers consider the elements that make the brand what it is and make that more a part of the logo. The green color begins to convey their environmental consciousness and the wavy hair symbolizes steam as stated earlier, but why not incorporate a coffee bean or a comfortable home environment? Maybe a coffee bean in a lounge chair? Better yet, let’s not fix anything since they have obviously done something right.
Arnheim, R. (1982). Art and Visual Perception, A Psychology of the Creative Eye.
Becker, U. (1996). The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols.
Lehner, E & Lehner, J. (1969). A Fantastic Bestiary, Beasts and Monsters in Myth and Folklore.
Liungman, C.G. (1991). Dictionary of Symbols.
Starbucks: A Visual Cup O’ Joe, @issue. 1(1).
Tressider, T. (1997). Dictionary of Symbols, An Illustrated Guide to Traditional Images, Icons and Emblems.
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