Starbucks New Logo Illustrates Branding Evolution

At a dinner conversation last night over a delicious bowl of the Barefoot Contessa’s Cheddar Corn Chowder, a friend was explaining how she didn’t like the name Barefoot Contessa because the name didn’t provide any clue that the Barefoot Contessa was a chef. Most everyone disagreed because when we started talking about established brands.

It turns out that many of the names don’t reveal the product or service. This is true of a long list of brands including Kleenex, Nike, Levis and Starbucks.

Once a brand creates a strong identity and becomes synonymous with the product they offer, the brand’s identity becomes a challenging balance of maintenance and innovation. From a design perspective, two recent example show the risk and reward from refining a defined identity…

The Gap experienced the negative fallout from quietly rolling out an underwhelming and ugly new logo. Not only did it feel like The Gap was tentatively revealing their logo but the design itself was head-scratchingly awkward and made one wonder how much they paid the kindergartner who came up with it.

Starbucks logo evolution

In contrast, Starbucks’ proudly previewed their redesigned logo on their homepage even though it is not being rolled out until March. The brand and logo is so ingrained in the culture that the graphic can live and prosper without the support of words, reaching a Swoosh or Golden Arches level of recognizability.

The removal of the words also allows Starbucks to no longer be known as only a coffee provider—see Starbucks Entertainment. The new design obeys the idea that a strong design boils away any excess—the close up of the siren clears away the outer rings and superfluous stars of the earlier versions. By refining their logo in a confident and thoughtful manner, Starbucks kept a hold on their past while clarifying their future vision.

What do you think of the new Starbucks logo? Has the logo reached an iconic level that will allow it to be identified independent of words?