Starbucks update logo
image via Starbucks

Pardon the alarmist headline (which, of course, is a take-off on the famous Onion headline from 21 July 1969), but in the world of branding and graphic design, this is kind of a big deal. At least to the many, many design blogs which picked up the story almost immediately from Monday night this week. (Yes, I’m a little late but my whole point here is about insight and analysis, not to ‘break’ design stories)

Starbucks update logo
The Updated Starbucks Logo

Oddly, it’s a very big deal over what amounts to a very subtle graphic update. Stabucks, our favourite big-ole-coffee-chain-as-global-brand have announced plans to roll out an updated logo in March 2011. The new logo isn’t a new logo outright, simply the next evolution in their identity. This time around, they’ve taken away the name in the outer ring, and gone solely with their now-ubiquitous Siren illustration as the entire logo. So in this case, it seems, less is more, but also less is exactly the same, which in the end means more. Something like that.

Evolution of Starbucks logos
Starbucks logos through the years

I’m a fan of this logo evolution, as I am a fan in general of illustrated mark-only logos. The strength here is two-fold: Firstly, as the shape and colour combination — green circle — still holds, in the eyes and lizard-brains of Starbucks’ consumers worldwide it hasn’t changed at all. We are still be able to recognise the brand mark, which means that all associated brand equity, visual language, and learned emotional response will be carried over without a second thought. Secondly, it simplifies the mark and makes it more universal. By eliminating language, the now-global chain can use identical visuals the world over.

evolution of Starbucks cups
A look at the evolution of logos-on-cup shows the simplification in action

To that second point, though, there is already a proverbial asterisk appearing. Our old friends in Saudi Arabia have vetoed the new logo and its emphasis on the Siren image, requiring Starbucks to create an alternate version.

Starbucks global vs. Saudi Arabia
Starbucks current logo (left) and its special Saudi edition. What will come next?

The website And Far Away has the story, with a proposal for how the new logo might look.

I have, of course, written about Starbucks many times previously on this blog. Who can forget Starbucks and the Death of Seasons or Starbucks Minus Starbucks. I could go on and on (and usually do).

via CR Blog, Brand New, MSNBC, Design:Related, Identity Works, Logo of the Day, and Starbucks, to name a few