A Symbol Analysis of Starbucks

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Matt LeGrande
Dr. Schuchardt
Iconomy
October 11th, 2012
Starbucked

There is no better concept for a logo in the corporate world than one that evokes cravings. The logo for the coffee corporation, Starbucks, is ideal to this standard, no longer standing as a symbol but an icon. Over the companies 41 years history it has changed significantly. The once small-business coffee brewery has expanded itself internationally, deeming itself to the world as the definition of what coffee is. Looking over its history one can see the strategic steps the corporation has taken to develop its logo into a distinct identifier suited to cause all environments to come back for more.

The Starbucks logo is an embodiment of fatal attraction. At the center of the logo stands a siren, “The sirens represent the traps set by passion and desire” (Chevalier 884). The Greek legend of Odysseus tells us about the seductive sea devils that would cause men to dive into the sea in hope of love. The sirens would lure the men in by their sweet songs and appealing physique. At the sound of a single note the men would be locked in begging for the full manifestation of this tease. Once overboard the sailors would drown and the ship would be lost forever. The power of the siren was so strong that Odysseus had to tie himself to the ship in order not to jump off.

This visual symbol works perfectly for the coffee company. Right off the bat viewers are subconsciously romanced by the sexually charged power of the symbol. Coffee is pleasure. Just as the siren’s song causes men to risk their lives for more, so the smell of those sleek, smooth ovals causes us to drop what we are doing and demand a cup of the beverage. The original Starbucks was conveniently located very close to Pike Place in Seattle, Washington, a very popular market located on the border of the Puget Sound. The meaning behind the logo is desperately screaming at you as you view the sea while you sip your hot beverage, linking your mind to the thoughts of the siren without you even trying.

The original logo designed in 1971 is significantly different than the one we see today. The center of the circular logo is filled with a detailed, full-body shot of the siren. The most notable difference in this sketch is the depiction of the creature’s breasts: they are clearly drawn revealing the nipples entirely. The siren seems to be forcefully holding its fins apart providing an open invitation in between its legs. The logo is much more visually stimulating than future ones, leaving very little to the imagination. Around the siren are the words, “Starbucks,” “Coffee,” “Tea,” and “Spices.” The whole logo is brown, with white space to create the text and image.

16 years later the company drastically updated their logo. The siren in the center was no longer free hand but was precise and equal on both sides. The body of the siren was toned down drastically making it much more accessible to all ages. Stars were added to both sides of the outer circle and the text only read: “Starbucks Coffee.” The most notable change is perhaps the color: it went from a dark brown to a mild green. Brown is a color of poverty; green is a color of hope, a nurse to the human race (Chevalier 451). The change of pigment brings the store a completely different feel: from rustic to lively, from death to life.

Five years later the logo was altered again. The shade of green was changed to a much bolder and vibrant green. The text became smaller and the image in the middle became larger, magnifying the siren so that only its torso was revealed with the fins coming up on its sides. The bolder green makes a much stronger statement than the milder green, giving off a feel of establishment in the business. The zoomed up picture of the siren emphasizes the image more making it even more recognizable.

Last year the logo was changed for the most recent time to-date. The corporation made a huge step in its design in...
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