Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Logo History: Starbucks

From DeadProgrammer's Cafe:
The book had an old engraving of a two-tailed mermaid. It reminded me of the Starbucks Siren, but back then I did not realize that the original Starbucks logo had a slightly altered version of that engraving in the original brown cigar band-shaped logo.

source for starbucks siren

Notice that the graphic designer removed the belly button, the unattractive shading around the bulging tummy of the 15th century siren and merged the tail-legs to remove the suggestion of naughty bits. The logo Siren also smiles a little while its 15th century doppelganger is looking rather grim. Other than that it’s clear that this is exactly the image that he or she was using.

old starbucks siren logo

According to uspto.gov “[Starbucks] mark consists of the wording “Starbucks Coffee” in a circular seal with two stars, and the design of a siren (a two-tailed mermaid) wearing a crown”.

Here’s the “cigar band” logo from which I took the image above. The original hippie Starbucks owners did not sell espresso drinks, but mostly sold coffee beans, tea and spices. Today Starbucks sells liquor and ice cream, but no spices if you don’t count the cinnamon gum and the stuff on the condiment table.

older starbucks logo

The next, more familiar green iteration of the logo has a more attractive stylized siren. The chest is hidden, but the belly button is still there.

old starbucks logo
Here is the current logo. They cropped the siren image so that only a hint of the tails is visible. I asked hourly partners at Starbucks and friends, and none of them could figure out what those things to the side of Siren’s head were.


Lately I’ve stopped seeing pictures of the Siren on Starbucks mugs - they seem to favor just the word “Starbucks”. I also started seeing the new type of the siren as part of store decoration and on coffee packaging. She only has one tail. I guess the family-unfriendly image of a fish-woman spreading her tails is on its way out.
(via BoingBoing)

Also check out the excellent article:
The Endicott Studio Journal of Mythic Arts: The Mermaid by Heinz Insu Fenkl:


As some readers may know, Starbucks had to change their corporate logo because some consumers found the suggestive split tail of their topless siren too lurid and sexually suggestive. A simplified logo was introduced, hiding the siren's breasts under waves of hair, and that in turn was cropped and enlarged so the split in the siren's tail would no longer show. The only indication now that the female icon is a sea creature is in the wavy lines, which originally were part of the representation of the two tails. And yes, although the image is that of a split-tailed sea creature, it is a siren. More specifically, it is a double-tailed siren, a baubo siren, which The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects points out, is "a cross between a mermaid and a sheila-na-gig" and is found as a decorative motif in many European churches and cathedrals. "Her suggestive pose, like that of the sheila-na-gig, referred to female sexual mysteries in particular." [...]

[...] And so the Starbucks logo is a brilliant piece of design, which, oddly enough, resonates with much of what I've discussed above. The original logo made quite explicit that Starbucks was using the lure of female sexuality to draw the customer to their coffee, but now you can see that the coffee is linked to the double lure of ultimate wisdom and the pleasures of the flesh. The name of the company, about which there is relatively little deep inquiry, actually makes the connection even more interesting. Apparently, the owners of Starbucks originally wanted to call their company "Moby's Coffee," referring to Moby Dick, the great white whale in Herman Melville's classic novel (which is read as a Christian allegory, the whale representing Christ). But bringing up the image of a giant whale was deemed potentially unattractive for coffee drinkers. And so a new logo was designed, but the name "Starbucks" maintains the connection to Moby Dick—Starbuck is the name of the coffee-drinking first mate from Nantucket, the only man who challenges the mad Ahab.

And finally, Kafka:

Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence... Someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence, certainly never.

Addendum:
Cartoonist Kieron Dwyer Sued By Starbucks
At a meeting during Comic-Con International, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Board of Directors voted to support cartoonist Kieron Dwyer's defense of a suit brought against him by the Starbucks Corporation (Starbucks v. Dwyer, C00 1499). Starbucks is suing Dwyer for copyright and trademark infringement of its "mermaid" logo, a parody of which appeared on the cover of Dwyer's Lowest Common Denominator #0. Dwyer contends that his drawing is a legitimate parody and, as such, protected by the First Amendment.




2 comments:

alicetheDroog said...

Heh, that's kinda cool.
Where'd ya find the last picture?

S. Casey said...

It's from the linked story right above it.