Welcome to Behind the Logo, a series that unpacks the history and design decisions behind some of the world’s most recognized logos. After you learn a thing or two, use Shopify's free logo maker to create something iconic of your own.
It’s difficult to recall a time when the iconic green Starbucks* logo, with its friendly two-tailed siren, wasn’t ubiquitous. It’s a familiar image in nearly any city around the world, adorning thousands of building facades everywhere, including packed metropolitan centers, suburban mall food courts, airport terminals, and even remote beach destinations. Starbucks currently operates in 84 markets with more than 34,000 stores.
So how did Starbucks manage to become the largest coffeehouse chain in the world? Starbucks offers a perfect case study for how to build a brand from scratch. The Starbucks logo design that you know today hasn’t strayed far from the original version, but it’s nonetheless the result of a series of evolutions.
The history of the Starbucks logo
Back in 1971, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker—friends who met at the University of San Francisco—had a vision to offer higher-quality roasted coffee beans than most people were accustomed to at the time. What the partners then needed, though, was a name that would not only catch the attention of potential customers, but ingrain itself in the culture.
Once they were ready to start roasting coffee beans and open the first Starbucks store, the company’s founders commissioned designer Terry Heckler to create an emblem for the brand.
The original Starbucks logo was circular and featured the crowned two-tailed siren at the center, just like today’s—but that’s about where the similarities end. In addition to being a maximalist design, the first Starbucks siren was a much more risqué, bare-breasted character in the style of a traditional woodcut print. The logo, which had the words “Starbucks Coffee, Tea, Spices” wrapped around it, was also brown, a color chosen to evoke a sense of calm and stability, as well as the earthly, natural qualities of the products offered.