Marking it’s 40th Anniversary, earlier in January Starbucks unveiled a new corporate identity. Now devoid of any and all typography (save the trademark symbol), the focus is now singly on the siren graphic that has been integral to the company’s logo since it’s humble beginnings in 1971. The ring, or closure around the graphic, which has also been a constant of the logo also since 1971, has been done away with. A subtle change in color from the familiar blue-green to a steady green hue is also evident in the new symbol.
Love it or hate it, I believe that this new mark is bound to become a textbook example of what a massive amount of effective, brand-building practices will bring to an organization. It’s also evidence of the time that must go into building such a brand: in Starbucks’ case, a process that has spanned four decades.
Sure it’s simple, but isn’t that the beauty of it? It’s almost immediately recognizable. With seventeen thousand stores in 50 different countries, why wouldn’t Starbucks follow the examples set by other industry giants? Target and McDonald’s, for example, often leave associated typography completely out of their branding while still speaking volumes of their individuality. Steve Barrett, who heads Starbucks’ 100-strong in-house design studio, gives some insight into the change:
“While business in 2010 picked up nicely, we have been through a painful period, bottoming in 2009 – a combination of self-inflicted problems, the economic downturn… we think a rebranding can be a helpful signal to partners and customers alike of a new, emerging Starbucks,” (Steve Barrett, VP Global Creative, Starbucks)
Barrett and the Starbucks design team closely studied the design-driven identities of other very visible, trusted brands such as Apple and Nike, and then made some decisions. This included stripping the logo of the typography that “cluttered” the visual symbol, ultimately leaving only the siren.
“From the start, we wanted to recognize and honor the important equities of the iconic Starbucks logo. After hundreds of explorations, we found the answer in simplicity,” (Mike P., senior creative manager, Starbucks)
The rebrand comes as a strategic move, not only strengthening Starbucks’ positioning as a supplier of ground coffee and beverages, but also preparing the company for future growth in new areas – including serving alcohol. Last year, Starbucks began serving wine and beer in a handful of test locations.
“Our new brand identity will give us the freedom and flexibility to explore innovations and new channels of distribution that will keep us in step with our current customers and build strong connections with new customers,” (Howard S., president, Starbucks)
The January 5 release of the new logo was a soft launch preview with the company building towards in-store events in March, which will be keyed to the company’s 40th anniversary. Watch this video for more insight into the rebranding process.
Additional Links & Media
Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team
Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities
LogoLounge 6: 2,000 International Identities by Leading Designers
Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul
The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary