The evolution of the Starbucks logo (image via

Global coffee retailer Starbucks is turning 40 this year and they’ve announced a new logo to coincide with the occasion. Looking at the sweep of logos from the original topless two-tailed mermaid — though the company often calls it a siren — that appeared on cups at their first store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market to the more modern version, I can’t help but notice the march towards abstraction and a less coffee-centric brand. Gone is the word “coffee” and the color brown, and in its place is an almost Holiday Inn-like green blandness that zooms in even closer on the increasingly de-nuded mermaid.

Left to right, the new Starbucks logo, the Holiday Inn logo, and a funny Islamic button via

What this redesign suggests is that Starbucks will continue to look beyond coffee and go more downmarket as it continues to grow. Hip 1990s Seattle sensibilities have given way to a more generic style common with fast-food chains you’d find in a shopping mall food court. What I think is ballsy about the design is that it could easily be read by Islamophobes as, well, Islamic with its titled crescent form and star, but then again it’s not like US President Barack Obama is associated with Starbucks, so the wingnuts haven’t gone after this … yet.

Logo styles are impacted by trends but this redesign seems to go against those spotted by Logo Lounge last month, namely it doesn’t display any cubist tendencies or spores, ghosts, tendrils, shifts, parts, pixels, hexadrons, dust, stains, bursts or even a wallpaper or boxed-up quality (to name a few), hell it doesn’t even suggest any of the minor trends of melting, spirograms or extrusions. So, what does it communicate? The familiarity of the smiling mermaid face (not in the 1971 original) and an image dominated (overwhelmed?) by stripes. I wonder if the library lounge feel of current Starbucks joints will soon give way to more staid plastic pivoting furniture. Judging by the logo, that’s the direction its headed.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

6 replies on “Starbucks Logo Goes Meh”

    1. I’ve been very interested in graphic design as art. My review of the Marc Newson show at Gagosian talks about that and other stories, like the acquisition of the “@” symbol by MoMA. I would personally like design to be part of the larger art discussions we have. I’m curious what your reservation about this is.

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