When it comes to iconic brand logos, specifically in the realm of caffeinated beverages, what company comes to mind every time? Starbucks. Without a glimpse of a store sign or coffee cup, the image is instantly there: a wavy haired, two-tailed, mermaid woman wearing a crown, all outlined in that familiar green hue. In fact, we'd probably be able to sketch it straight from memory with a fair amount of accuracy. It's just that classic. But for such a strong visual brand presence in our lives, we've never actually stopped to wonder what this image stands for. (Aside from that Venti morning latte with an extra shot.) So, we decided to get to the bottom of the cup and we reached out to a Starbucks representative to get the scoop.
As it turns out, the legendary coffee chain gets its namesake from a character in Herman Meville's Moby Dick. And the green and white mermaid-lady? She's also sea-inspired, and is technically a "twin-tailed siren from Greek mythology" who wasn't always green and white.
But, while we might be able to draw what today's siren looks from memory, she wasn't always the same green mythological creature. According to a Starbucks press representative, back in 1971 when the company first started brewing beans in Seattle, the initial brand logo was brown. And it stayed brown along with the text, "Starbucks Coffee And Tea" and a fuller-bodied shot of the siren, until 1987.
When the late 80s rolled around and handcrafted espresso beverages first found their way to the menu, the logo got its green treatment (and also lost the "And Tea" portion of its title). The siren's coloring also shifted to black and white with the longer, wavier locks we're used to seeing today, and an addition of two stars were added to her sides. In 1992, a subtler change occurred when the company went public — a more zoomed in shot of the twin-tailed woman, all colors, titles, and stars remaining the same.
The final and most recent change went down in 2011, marking Starbucks' 40-year anniversary. All titles, stars, and black coloring were dropped, resulting in the current green and white close up of the twin-tailed, crown-wearing siren who greets you when you take a sip.
Each of these logo shifts have occurred over a sixteen, five, and nineteen year span — and each has dropped a little bit of the busier excess and focused in further on the core image of the siren (now iconically synonymous with the java company). And because we're currently going on six years since the last update, a coffee-consumer has got to wonder: How will the world's most recognizable coffee logo evolve next? Take a look at the full illustrated logo timeline below.