Saturday, January 29, 2011

something’s brewing at starbucks : a new logo

yes, it is indeed a new logo, scheduled to be launched this march. and the critics are already at work on this one. no doubt there will be as many good reviews as bad ones, but the bottom line will speak for itself, and that is the reception of the new emblem by its true audience, possibly including you: the coffee drinkers.



unlike the critics, my intent is not to attack the new mark, nor highlight what i think are the good or bad points ~ we all have opinions, i will leave you with yours. i will simply say that overall i think it is a fine attempt at moving the company into the future, and i will also remind you of why they are doing this change in the first place, notwithstanding the fact that it is their 40th anniversary, an occasion worth celebrating (especially if you remember how hard it was to find a decent cup of java in the US before they came along).

the starbucks logo evolution from 1971, 1987, 1992 and 2011. some trivia: the rumour goes that the exposed belly and opened legs became controversial hence their removal. even the 1992 logo had its belly button removed (i own coasters which include it, a proof that this is in fact true).

the whole purpose of any logo revamp is always about moving a company forward into the future. there is simply no way around it: as society evolves, companies must also transform themselves in response to the market changes and/or in anticipation of those changes; the latter being the more pro-active approach. that means they have to continually look at where they are and where they want to be as a corporation, and take the necessary steps to move forward. in that process, yes, it is possible they may make mistakes. and if they do (as gap recently did), they can rectify them, most often with minimal damage. but there are no gains without venturing into new territories, which means that yes, there are risks ~ even with a simple logo redesign.

for starbucks, one of the primary reasoning behind the simplification of their icon, as stated on their blog, is that now that they are more than just a coffee company, they wanted to drop the word "coffee" from the logo. since they now sell food (beyond cookies and muffins), coffee machines and accessories, and even gift items as varied as journals and board games, this seems like a logical direction. not to say that they are moving away from being a coffee company, but rather an expansion of it. amazon comes to mind as a large example of such expansion: they will always remain at the source an online bookstore but their inventory now goes beyond imaginable.


now the key in redesigning or revamping a logo is always to create a new look without breaking the brand. hence most logo revamps are quite subtle. some people might not even notice the changes at first glance. in some ways that is a good thing. recognition is very important. if you are driving down the street looking to grab a quick coffee, no doubt you will be looking for that green starbucks emblem. you don’t want to change that. the impact would be immediate if you didn’t recognize it. companies that make a faux-pas always see it in the numbers, and they see it very fast. they also rectify their mistakes just as fast (yes, money always speaks the loudest).

let us look at some logo evolutions of well known brands and the subtle ways into which they moved through the years. btw, there are many great evolutions to look at, and a simple google search of logo evolution will give you a bucket-load of examples. but here are a few good ones:

both coca-cola and pepsi did a great job in their logo evolutions. there may have been some less attractive marks at times, but we ought to remember where society was at back in their times. this pepsi evolution does not include their very latest, which i personally think is a disaster.


both bmw and mastercard are excellent examples of subtle changes over years. in the bmw evolution, there was definitely a glitch in the 4th rendition, however it may have been somewhat appropriate in its time. in the early mastercard example, there was a huge design and name change which is a perfect example of when it is appropriate to do so.


the volkswagen evolution is a little more obvious and each step more drastic. however when everything is said and done, the V and the W are very much integral to their original design, something that can also be said of the starbucks siren.

since i always try to include some personal work in this blog, here is an engineering firm whose logo i revamped. this is also a good example of when to redesign versus when to revamp. sandwell being a 20+ year corporation when they came to us, i recommended we do not change their mark but rather bring the one they had into the present day. we accomplished that with a font redesign, spacing, and the incorporation of their tagline. subtle, but fresh and clean.


however well any of these logo changes were received or how many debates they may have caused, it goes without saying that looking at those marks in the present time, they were necessary evolutions. and as easy as it may be for you to dismiss the new starbucks logo, criticize it as you may, try jumping into the future and looking at the bigger picture. when coming back to the present, smell the coffee as it is, and enjoy what’s on the cup not only what’s in it.