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What is the Starbucks mermaid called?

The Real Story Behind The Starbucks Logo

The Starbucks siren logo, appearing on coffee cups all over the known world (and even in the occasional fictional world like Westeros, as witnessed in the notorious «Game of Thrones gaffe»), is meant, according to the company website, to «evok[e] coffee’s allure and its seafaring tradition.» In fact, the whole nautical motif is kind of a thing, since Starbucks did, in fact, adopt its name from a character in the Great American Whale Novel, «Moby Dick.»

On a more basic level, the mermaid embodies the basic advertising principle that pretty girls make people want to buy stuff. Or, perhaps according to the earlier, boobier version of the Starbucks logo, «sex sells.» Of course, the company long ago ditched the topless version for a more family-friendly mascot, a logo evolution that was bound to go over better with the sippy cups and strollers crowd as well as in some of the more conservative countries where it expanded as it grew towards global domination.

The Starbucks logo features a siren, not a mermaid

So what does Starbucks have to say about its logo? Creative director Steve Murray says the siren is the face of the brand (quite literally), and although he admits «She is not a real person» (so not based on the founder’s wife or anything), he adds that «we kind of think of her as one.» Starbucks is also quick to point out that the mascot is not a mermaid since mermaids have just one tail whereas sirens, they say, have two.

As for why the company chose this mythological maiden, it says not only does the siren tie in with the nautical motif of the chain’s «Moby Dick»-inspired name, it also tracks with the fact that Starbucks’ hometown Seattle lies in fairly close proximity to the Pacific ocean. What’s more, the coffee it serves is admittedly not a local product, but instead must undertake a long ocean voyage via container ship in order to arrive at their roasteries. One wonders if Starbucks’ founders were aware that the sirens of Greek mythology were notorious for causing shipwrecks.

Superstition aside, the Starbucks siren has proven to be anything but ill-omened for the company, as she’s been with the company from their startup days all the way to its current incarnation as a multi-zillion dollar enterprise.

The logo is asymmetrical on purpose

There’s one interesting thing about the Starbucks logo that isn’t immediately apparent but is very much intentional: The siren’s face is actually somewhat asymmetrical and has been for over a decade. As to why the brand introduced a deliberate flaw into this once-perfect siren, Fast Company says it’s because the pre-2011 version of the logo was actually kind of creepy.

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While numerous studies have shown that symmetry is one of the main standards by which we define attractiveness, it seems there can be too much of a good thing. No real human is perfectly symmetrical, at least without the aid of highly-skilled plastic surgeons, and perhaps on some subconscious level, we associate absolute symmetry with artificiality. With this in mind, Starbucks’ design team retooled the siren just a teensy bit by adding a shadow alongside her nose that breaks up some of that facial symmetry. This hint of lopsidedness made the siren more human-looking and thus, paradoxically, all the prettier for her imperfection.

The not-so-controversial controversy behind the logo

Surprisingly, even the G-rated face-only Starbucks siren has been controversial in certain circles, those being that of a) conspiracy theorists and b) the overly pedantic. The former group has seen her as a symbol of the Illuminati (honestly, what isn’t seen as an Illuminati symbol?) or of a Zionist plot. It’s the latter circle, though, that really likes to pick those nits and dig up the, well, not dirt, since there’s nothing particularly shameful attached to the findings. Instead, these people are merely stirring the dust with scholarly criticisms.

While Starbucks says its original logo was «derived from a twin-tailed siren in an old sixteenth-century Norse woodcut,» the company seems to have misspoken. The term «Norse» actually refers to Viking-era Scandinavia, so a more proper term would have been «Nordic.» More shockingly, it turns out that the original woodcut may have been German, while Atlas Obscura located similar images in a Byzantine mosaic and a 12th-century Italian cathedral.

The closest thing to a scandal, however, may be the identity of the twin-tailed siren: She could be a character called Melusine, who’s actually more of an inland spring-maid than a sea siren. But then, Seattle is located between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, so perhaps a siren who’s also a freshwater nymph is the perfect symbol for that city’s gift to the world’s coffee drinkers. At any rate, the siren’s cute, and the logo’s not going anywhere. So just calm down and chill out with a flat white already.

Why Starbucks’ name no longer appears in its logo

Starbucks these days seems well on the way to world domination and in fact, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it open its first interplanetary location within the next few years. Still, the company has hit a few bumps in the road since its humble beginnings. One such bump occurred in the late aughties when McCafe started drawing away customers attracted by its lower-priced offerings. How, then, did Starbucks regain its market dominance? Well, for one thing, it introduced a couple of features that practically define the brand today. One of these is a robust rewards program that makes it easy for even casual patrons to earn free stuff, while the other is allowing people to customize their drink orders. (This latter change, however, is one many baristas may have come to resent as customizable Starbucks drinks birthed the ever-changing «secret menu» nightmare.)

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In order to symbolize the company’s new direction, Starbucks adopted yet another new logo in 2011. Not only did this feature the new, nose-shadow mermaid, but even more noticeably, it dropped the Starbucks name. The reason for this is that the company felt it was now so recognizable that it didn’t need to reference its name, thus one-upping single-name celebs who feel they can dispense with a last name. Certain other companies like Apple and Nike have also gone name-free with successful results, and apparently, Starbucks felt the time was right to position itself as being equally iconic.

The siren is also no longer constrained by a circle

Adding a little calculated asymmetry to the siren’s face and dropping the Starbucks name weren’t the only changes going on in the 2011 logo reboot. The siren also underwent a color change as well – in her very first incarnation (the bare boobies one) she was brown, while in the next two, she was black. In 2011, however, she turned green. Perhaps even more symbolic, though, was that she was no longer enclosed in a circle outline.

Okay, the siren logo is still round. So technically she’s still encircled, but the circle itself no longer has an outline. What is the meaning behind this? It’s possible that the designers just felt that it looked nice, but Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch thought there might be a deeper meaning behind the siren going outline-free. As he told NBC News, Starbucks isn’t just selling coffee, but more of a whole lifestyle experience. For this reason, he said, «It is important that they not have a logo that is too confining.»

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Who is the Starbucks Siren, and what does it mean?

As a designer, I often look at the many shops trying to grab my attention as I walk down the street. I take note of the wide variety of logos I see, but often wonder what they are trying to say to me. What do they mean?

One that had stumped for a while, for example, was Starbucks.

Starbucks coffee cup

I had little idea who the figure inside of the circular logo was, or where the name ‘Starbucks’ originated. Let alone what it might mean.

As it turns out, the Starbucks name comes from a fictional character, Cpt. Starbuck, from the story Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Starbucks reason was to ‘capture the seafaring history of coffee and Seattle’s strong seaport roots.’ From this, their figure emerged as a synonymous symbol of the sea, a siren.

I like where the name came from, as not only does it link back to their heritage but it makes me think of adventure and distant places; perhaps where the mightiest coffee grows. What this siren represents to others, however, might not be so clear. Or positive.

Here are a few interpretations I came across.


two-tailed mermaid from Naturalis Historia (1565)

From European myths and alchemy, her two tails represent dualities, such as earth and water, or body and soul. (source)

This idea of duality, for me, creates notions of ‘oneness’ or ‘togetherness’, which are excellent values to communicate in building customer relationships.

Melusine, Cursed Maiden


This folklore and mythological story goes that Melusine is a spirit of freshwater and the daughter of the fairy Pressyne and king Elinas of Albany (Scotland). After fleeing with her mother, Melusine agrees to marry on one condition – that she is never disturbed when she bathes. But over time these oaths are broken, revealing her real appearance, and so she shapeshifts to continue fleeing. (source, source)

This story of Melusine might say on the surface that Starbucks embodies beauty, but that their true identity is an evil one.

Siren / Mermaid

artwork of The sirens imploring Ulysses to stay 1886

A siren, or mermaid in the most common understanding, is a half-woman half-fish creature whose seductive songs lure fisherman to their deaths by crashing their ships on the boulders from where they sing. (source)

Mermaids bring another negative connotation. Are we being lured in by Starbucks, as a Siren sings to seduce the sailors on the sea? Many of us give in to the temptation of their coffee, after all.

Starbucks logo 2011 redesign

I’m only using Starbucks as an example of how the meaning behind a company could be miss-interpreted by its logo. Another could be what Lacoste’s crocodile might say to someone seeing it for the first time, not knowing the nickname of their founder out on the tennis court.

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It is excellent when a company shares its origin and values, and even greater if their brand identity can help represent them. It is essential, however, to be aware of the other meanings that a character or symbol could have. To some, it could be alluring, but to others, it could be harmful or offensive.

You can read more about the Starbucks siren here, where there are some rare editions of the logo included from the designer of the first iteration of the brown Starbucks logo. And a more recent detail you may not have noticed, highlighted by Mark Wilson, here.

What’s your interpretation of the Starbucks logo? Do you think of distant lands and adventure, or only ‘One flat white to go, please’?

What is that Creature on Starbucks Logo?

Ever wonder what is the creature on Starbucks logo? What are those things that the creature is holding? There is a little bit confusion wether its a mermaid or a siren. People always debate about this.

Well, in the research that I’ve done, they are typically called Sirens-both half-bird/half fish while the half-fish-half-women are called mermaids. According to ancient Greeks, both of the creatures like to seduce mariners with songs with sex offer but kill them later than.

The creature holding the two tails on Starbucks logo was actually called Melusine. Appears in European Heraldry, and a French medieval tale. Starbucks logo and history have an interesting story to tell.

The First Starbucks Emblem in 1971

Starbucks was born in Seattle, Washington in 1971 founded by three partners, english teacher Jerry Baldwin, history teacher Zev Siegl, and writer Gordon Bowker. Starbucks was named after one of the character in the novel Moby-Dick (fiction novel). Starbucks was selling high quality coffee beans and equipment on that time.

Entrepreneur Howard Schultz later joined Starbucks in 1982 as Director of Retail Operation and Marketing. He got an idea and advised the company should sell coffee and espresso drinks as well as beans but his idea was rejected by Starbucks owner.

The Il Giornale Logo

The owner of Starbucks believe the beverage business would distract the primary focus. However, Schultz started coffee bar chain with the name II Giornale in April 1986.

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As you can see, above are the logo of II Giornale, it looks quite similar with Starbucks logo. He said “Our logo reflected the emphasis on speed”. The Il Giornale name was inscribed in a green circle that surrounded a head of Mercury, the swift messenger god.”

Starbucks in 1987

In 1987, Starbucks chain was sold to Schult’z II Giornale, then rebranded II Giornale outlet as Starbucks. From that day on, Starbucks began to expand. As the two company merge, Terry come out with the idea to merge the two logos together, keeping the Melusine with her starred crown and made her more minimalistic.

The traditional color of Starbucks logo was changed to green and the logo also inherited the stars from the II Giornale logo. The bare breasts were covered by the Melusine flowing hair and the text in the circular was changed to “Starbucks Coffee”.

The Designer Behind Starbucks Emblem

Doug Fast is one of the designer behind this logo. The first brown logo was designed by his employer in 1971 and he start working with him in January 1974.

The company was then called Heckler/Bowker, but Bowker(the company copy writer) left Heckler/Bowker in 1984 and take on Starbucks full time. Doug Fast also designed the II Giornale logo in 1985.

Besides, he also redesigned the brown color logo to a simpler and stronger logo. The letter on the “Starbucks Coffee” was hand drawn base on the typeface Franklin Gothic. He submitted a red and a green color of the logo, but then Howard pick on the green logo.

Startbucks in 1992

In 1992, the logo of Starbucks went through a minor change. The image of siren was cropped and zoomed. This makes the viewers more focus on the friendly siren faces.


In 2011 the logo was currently redesigned, the logo now entirely features the siren and the text “Starbucks Coffee” was taken out from the logo.

I like the current logo, it feels minimalistic, very impact and friendly. Some people may disagree with the text “Starbucks Coffee” was taken out from the logo and they thinks its a risky move.

Well, I don’t think it is a risky move at all, Starbucks took time to build reputation, besides Starbucks is a big brand. This logo design also marks its 40th year anniversary.

What do you think on Starbucks latest logo?

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