If your first introduction to Starbucks was in the last few years, you may not realize that the woman in the logo is a mermaid—or that she’s holding her tails wide open in a fertility gesture. Dead Programmer traces the evolution of the logo from 15th century fertility symbol to 21st century corporate logo and explains how it has morphed over the years.
What he leaves unexplained is what happened when the first radical leap occurred, from the brown “coffee, tea, spices” logo to the green more stylized mermaid. As I recall reading in a print article about ten years ago, this happened as part of a general brand refresh (or first brand design) that also ushered in the use of subtle “steam” graphics in the packaging, the introduction of earth-toned paints in the graphics and the stores, and just about everything you think of as the modern Starbucks iconography. This all happened about the time Starbucks made the shift from mail order coffee into retail and began to appear on the East Coast. I think the article appeared in How magazine. (I can’t find the article online, but there was a recent article about the work of the in-house Starbucks design team that does appear on the How site.)
Original link via BoingBoing.