Logo Stories: Starbucks

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Starbucks and its logo are a classic example of something peculiar becoming so mainstream that it's no longer questioned. So the next time you're in a Starbucks (you're in one now, aren't you?), snap out of your mocha-induced haze for just a moment and look, really look, at the logo on your cup. Does it make sense to you? If it does, it's likely because you've been inhaling coffee fumes for the last two hours. If it doesn't, it's because you're just noticing for the first time that the Starbucks chick has two tails. What the what?

It's true: When Starbucks began with just one store in 1971, Seattle was known more for its location as a seaport than for its coffee. Therefore, Starbucks' founders went with a nautical theme for the shop's name (Starbuck is the ship's first mate in Moby Dick) and its logo, which is a depiction of a two-tailed siren from mythology. Sirens, if you'll remember, were mythological creatures who would lure sailors to their deaths with their haunting, hypnotic singing voices and beautiful appearances (one would guess that the tails were kept well hidden, or that mythological men had strange predilections).

In 1987, when Howard Schultz's Il Giornale acquired Starbucks' assets and changed its name to the Starbucks Corporation, the logo underwent a modernization, though the strange-looking siren remained. Quite coincidentally, we're sure, the background went from the color of coffee to the color of money.

In 1992, Starbucks became a publicly traded company and somebody finally made the smart decision to get Ms. Starbucks ready for her close-up. The close-up continued in 2011, when Starbucks surpassed 17,000 stores worldwide and it appeared that its global domination was near completion. Lippincott helped free the siren from her ring. With the new look, Lippincott also helped Starbucks prepare for a future vision that likely goes beyond coffee.

The ultimate in branding is when a company's logo is so universally recognizable that there's no longer a need to include the company name. We noticed something startling in the week since we stopped drinking coffee, cold-turkey style: The Starbucks siren has started to bear an increasingly striking resemblance to the Borg Queen from Star Trek. Don't stare too long at this last logo or you'll find yourself propelled to the nearest Starbucks store or, barring that, at least to put another Starbuck K-cup in the Keurig. You know you want to: Resistance is futile.

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