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What is your logo saying about your company?

Published February 24th, 2014

As a designer I often look at the many shops shouting at me for their attention on my walks down the high street. I try to take notice of the extensive variety of logos I see and often wonder what they are trying to say to me.

Starbucks Coffee

One that has stumped for a while, for example, is Starbucks. I had very little idea who the figure inside of the circular logo was, or where the name ‘Starbucks’ came from. Let alone what it might mean.

As it turns out Starbucks was named after 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, 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…


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

Melusine, Cursed Maiden

Melusine depicted on a coat of arms.

The story goes that a siren agrees to marry a man called Raymond, the Duke of Aquitaine, on one condition – that he never disturb her on a Saturday when she bathes. He agrees, but over time his curiosity rises, he spies on her and her true appearance is revealed. She transforms into a dragon and departs in a shrieking fury. (source)

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

Some might agree with this.

Siren / Mermaid

“The Sirens imploring Ulysses to stay” (1886)

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

This again brings negative connotations. 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.

It is important for a company to share its origin and values, and great if the brand identity can help represent them but it is also important to be aware of the other connotations it could have. To some your logo could be alluring but to others it could be negative 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.

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