How the Starbucks Siren Became Less Naughty

[update] Starbucks logo changes again.

You are probably here because you looked closely at the Starbucks logo and were a little confused about what is depicted on it. Is it a mermaid? What are those things that she is holding up with her hands? Wasn’t the logo different before? What’s the history of it?

I asked those questions myself and did a little bit of digging. My research started with a book that I had, called A Dictionary of Symbols by J.E. Cirlot. In it there was a chapter about Sirens.

Basically, from what I gathered from different sources, including that book, there is a lot of confusion between the different mythological half-women. Typically they are called Sirens – both the half-bird/half-woman and the half-fish/half-woman varieties. The fish type are usually called Mermaids. Both types according to the ancient Greeks were in the business of seducing mariners with songs and promises of sex and then killing them, but Hans Christian Andersen and Disney mostly made everybody forget that.

The whole sex-symbol status of mermaids hinges on the question which part is “woman” – upper or lower. “The other type of mermaid” that hapless Fry was referring to would have problems attracting suitors, of course. And how do you do it with the normal type?

Wise mythologists came up with the answer, of course. And the answer is a two-tailed mermaid sometimes called a Melusine.

The book had an old engraving of a two-tailed mermaid. It reminded me of the Starbucks Siren, but back then I did not realize that the original Starbucks logo had a slightly altered version of that engraving in the original brown cigar band-shaped logo.

Notice that the graphic designer removed the belly button, the unattractive shading around the bulging tummy of the 15th century siren and merged the tail-legs to remove the suggestion of naughty bits. The logo Siren also smiles a little while its 15th century doppelganger is looking rather grim. Other than that it’s clear that this is exactly the image that he or she was using.

According to uspto.gov “[Starbucks] mark consists of the wording “Starbucks Coffee” in a circular seal with two stars, and the design of a siren (a two-tailed mermaid) wearing a crown”.

Here’s the “cigar band” logo from which I took the image above. The original hippie Starbucks owners did not sell espresso drinks, but mostly sold coffee beans, tea and spices. Today Starbucks sells liquor and ice cream, but no spices if you don’t count the cinnamon gum and the stuff on the condiment table.

The next, more familiar green iteration of the logo has a more attractive stylized siren. The chest is hidden, but the belly button is still there.

Here is the current logo. They cropped the siren image so that only a hint of the tails is visible. I asked hourly partners at Starbucks and friends, and none of them could figure out what those things to the side of Siren’s head were.

Lately I’ve stopped seeing pictures of the Siren on Starbucks mugs – they seem to favor just the word “Starbucks”. I also started seeing the new type of the siren as part of store decoration and on coffee packaging. She only has one tail. I guess the family-unfriendly image of a fish-woman spreading her tails is on its way out.

[update] Here’s a picture of the new siren:

The brown Siren logo can still be found on merchandize sold at the original Pike Place Market Starbucks in Seattle. The logo is altered though – instead of a “cigar band” design it uses just a circle logo. Cigar band logo mugs and coffee jars can still be found on eBay for upwards of $50 per mug and $200 per coffee jar. I am still looking for anything bearing an “Il Giornale” (a company founded byHoward Schultz that later ended up buying out Starbucks with the help of none other than Bill Gates Sr.) logo.

[Update]
Dear Boing Boing readers – you might enjoy other sections of this blog such as Gastronomic Adventures and 100 Views of the Empire State Building.

[Update]
I was alerted to another article that explores the Siren’s symbolism. I haven’t used it in my research, but it is very thorough.

[Update] The whole logo history is described pretty well in Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. The book is full of other Starbucks trivia: if I remember correctly, it states that Howard Schultz is a close friend of Yanni.

[Update]

I received some information from Doug Fast, the designer behind the green logo. He also graciously sent me some rare examples of the logo, for which I am extremely thankful.

“I am the guy who designed the green SBUX logo. The original brown SBUX logo was designed in 1971 by my employer before I started working for him in January 1974. ( I still work there as a designer) The design company was then called Heckler/ Bowker, here in Seattle. Bowker (the company copy writer) was one of the three original founders of SBUX and left Heckler/ Bowker in 1984 to take on SBUX full time. (there were 5-6 stores at that time) The other two founders were; Jerry Baldwin and Zev Siegal. Heckler/Bowker came up with the Starbucks name and Heckler came up with the first (brown) logo. The other name strongly suggested was Pequod, but lost out to Starbucks.

The original SBUX store was NOT in the Public Market or in the Arcade as people think. It was at the corner of Western Avenue & Virginia, just north, across the street from the Public Market at the foot of the steep hill going up to 1st Avenue, and opened it’s doors in March 1971. I have a photo of it and also a drawing of it that was on an SBUX Christmas card from 1977.

The first retail Starbucks coffee drink concept store was originally called Il Giornale, and located on 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle. There was only one of these stores ever. I designed the logo for that in 1985-86, plus the coffee bag packaging, and still have the stationary, bags, and cup designs in my sample file. Howard Schultz was still an employee of SBUX at that time, not the owner, as I’ve seen said in previous blog info. here.

The reason only ONE Il Giornale store ever existed was because of the purchase of SBUX by Howard and his investers, and because the SBUX name and logo had so much capital already, they changed Il Giornale back to SBUX and wanted a more reproducable SBUX design, to go national.

I did the green “full siren” logo with a stronger, simpler, read for reproduction. The SBUX type was HAND DRAWN and based on the typeface, Franklin Gothic (this was pre-computer, folks) and had to be drawn so it bent well, around the circle. We submitted the logo to Howard, one with a red color and one in a green color. He picked the green color option.

In 1992 we had to blow up the siren to eliminate the spread, so called suggestive tails, so that’s the version you see today.

I still have most of the original concept work for the creation of this logo in one of my big sketchbooks. To me at the time, it was just another logo job to do. Who would have thought I’d be sick of seeing it all over the place. It isn’t one of my best logos.”

Original stores from the old coffee bag:

The original “cigar band” logo:

Il Giornale logo:

Green “bellybutton” logo

One of the newer coffee bags that reimagines the siren:

New “cigar band” logo with covered up nipples and cleaner lines:

New plastic stirrer / plug in the shape of the siren:

Old logo at one of the first (from what I hear it’s not the “original” location) stores at the Pike Market in Seattle

original-starbucs-logo

starbucks-pike-market

Did reading this article inspire you to write a poem about Starbucks? You can use Rhymebuster, the algorithmic rap generator. Turns out a lot of things rhyme with Starbucks (other than sucks).


Rank and File

Since a comprehensive list of Microsoft codenames already exists, I would like to move on to another taxonomy project that fascinates me. I would like to collect a list of weird titles so common in many big-name corporations. Here are some notes that I collected already.

Also I am adding a little note about certain not very publicized rules that the company has that might help you get better service, or so to say to hack the system. You’ll see what I mean.

Kinko’s
Every employee carries a title of “Co-worker”. Employees use the term Kinkoid instead.

Kinko’s hacks:
All Kinkoids seem to live in fear of “mystery shoppers”. The corporate mothership sends special agents that pose as customers, and then evaluate the Co-workers. On at least several occasions I asked for some collating and printing jobs and quoted long wait times by Co-workers, which strangely had a change of heart and did the work right away. Your job is to make a Co-worker suspect that you are a “mystery shopper”. How? I don’t know, but apparently I managed to pull it off a couple of times.

McDonald’s:
Generic title: Crew Member. There are special non-management Crew Members with many years of experience called Crew Superstars. Managers carry the title of Crew Leader.

Fast Food Hacks:
This is a little known fact, but almost all soda fountains have a special button that will dispense seltzer. So technically the soda choice include seltzer. Sometimes when I am not in the mood for caramel coloring and phosphoric acid, I buy a medium soda and then ask them to find the button (most employees don’t know about it).

Starbucks:
Barristas are known as Hourly Partners. I’ve seen a title of Coffee Master on a manager’s card.

Starbucks Hacks:
There’s an 8oz cup called “Short” as opposed to the holy trinity of Tall-Grande-Venti. It’s never advertised, but I successfully ordered it on occasion.

I learned a new trick, which I am not planning on using, but which surprised me. I found a tiny sticker which outlined Starbucks refill policy. It reminded me that Spongebob episode where Bubble Bass pointed out to the microscopic print on the Crusty Crab menu that outlined the refund policy. Anyway, it seems like the rule is that if you finish your drink within the hour, you can ask for a refill in the same cup at an unspecified reduced price. How will they know if you consumed your drink in an hour? There’s a label on the cup that records the time when the drink was ordered. You can also apparently bring in your own cup and have it filled at 30 cents off or so.

You can ask for free coffee grinds at any Starbucks store to use as fertilizer for your garden or farm.

Barnes and Noble:
This is a surprising one. All B&N employees carry the title of “bookseller”. Even computer programmers and janitors. Thank you, anonymous tipster for this slice of corporate weirdness.

Disney
Most employees at Disney World are titled “Cast Members”. “Face” characters, like Cinderella and the like are “Union Actors”. Disney weirdness is too huge to discuss here, there are whole sites dedicated to the subject. “No Disney Cast member at the Disney reservation center has the same name. If there are more then two with the same then they are given a name.” Whoa.
Thank you, Merlin!

Pacific Theaters
Ushers and the like carry the title of “Talent”.
Thanks you, Greg!

This calls for a gratuitous Spongebob quote:
“Squidward: Repeat after me. “I have no talent”
Spongebob: I have no talent.
Squidward: “Mr. Tentacles has all the talent”.
Spongebob: Mr. Tentacles has all the talent.
Squidward: “If I’m lucky, some of Mr. Tentacles talent can rub off on me”.
Spongebob: If I’m lucky, Mr. Talent can…rub…his tentacles on my…art… (smiles)”

Toyota Canada
Salesmen carry the title of “New Vehicle Advisor “
Thank you, Aidan R.

WL Gore & Associates
Every employee is – you guessed it – an “Associate”.
Thank you, Joe Grossberg.

NASA
Gouvernment employees are called “Guvvies” and contractors are called “Swaliens” (because they are frequently from Swales Aerospace.

Thank you, anonimous commenter.

IKEA
IKEA employees have the same designation as Kinkos – “Co-worker”. I am not sure if this is a recent development or not.

If you have any information like this, please let me know.

TT: Planetdoes News

While buying coffee at hidden Starbucks I browsed through the little pamphlets that they have next to condiments and stirring sticks (did you notice that they have Splenda now?). What have I learned? Firstly, I learned that a Starbucks grunt’s official title is “hourly partner”. Cordwainer Smith’s rhyme comes to mind : “I need a temporary dog / For a temporary job / On a temporary place / Like Earth!” I kind of collect peculiar corporate job titles, as I’ve mentioned at the end of an earlier Thought Tally.

Secondly I learned that you can come into any Starbucks and ask for complimentary coffee grounds. As it turns out, coffee grounds make an excellent nitrogen fertilizer for your garden. I wonder if Starbucks coffee is a good fertilizer – it sure tastes that way.

***

Why I drink the Starbucks fertilizer? Because my lunch break is short and Joe’s is in the Village. By the way, recently I’ve learned that there’s another good coffee place called Ninth Street Espresso. I need to pay them a visit.

***

I also need to some other coffee and caffeine news. There’s a new trend in espresso making. The innovative barristas started cutting off the bottoms of portafilters. This lets them notice any minute imperfections in packing of grinds and have outstanding quality control of the extraction. It also looks cool as hell. I am thinking about doing the same with one of my spare portafilters.

I learned this interesting tidbit because these days there are several outstanding blogs kept by super high quality coffee house operators. There’s Victrola Coffee, Blue Bottle Clown College and Tonx Dot Org. I suggest that you subscribe to their feeds unless you can’t stand heartbreakingly beautiful photos of artisanal caffeinated drinks.

***

In other news I seem to be totally addicted to matcha tea. I got some awesome “thick tea” from Japan and it rocks.

Still Round The Corner There May Wait A Restaurant or a Hidden Starbucks

Advertising might be the engine of commerce, but there is a surprising number of NYC businesses are hidden inside skyscrapers with almost no indication of them on the outside.

For instance, me and my co-workers often go to a Starbucks that is located in a lobby of a skyscraper. There is no sign outside, and inside you need to pass a security guy (who surprisingly lets you through) and turn a corner. I could not believe my eyes – you absolutely had to know where that Starbucks was.

There is nothing special about our hidden Starbucks, except it is the closest one to us and the lines are usually shorter. They do have an old style La Marzocco machine not yet replaced by the new superautomatics, but the barrista has no idea about how to grind the coffee and tamp it properly. I guess they don’t teach that anymore at Starbucks U.

There is a more interesting hidden place that we frequent. It’s a restaurant called Taam-Tov (46 West 47th Street, 4th floor 212-768-8001) which happens to be located on the fourth floor of a dumpy and decrepit art deco building in the middle of the Jewelry district on 47th street. To be fair I have to mention that there is a little sign on the step of a staircase that can be seen from outside. But you have to climb 8 flights of stairs, past dirty walls, an exposed phone comm. box and frequent full trash bags. There you will see an unmarked closed door and a small open order window.

Alternatively you can enter a jewelry store on the first floor and take a tiny little elevator, which will deposit you inside the restaurant. I strongly discourage you from using it.

Once me and three of my co-workers, one of whom is “portlier” than I am (and I am pretty “portly” myself), two have asthma and only one inhaler, despite my reluctance chose to take that tiny elevator. We let a bunch of people go up before us, waited for the elevator to come back and boarded it. Immediately what seemed to me like three shady looking Russian jewelers squeezed in after us. To my horror I noticed that in fact there was a fourth guy with them, just as sweaty and unshaven, but really short and skinny. Of course we got stuck between the floors and it took me and one of the jewelers few very uncomfortable minutes to figure out how to open the doors. Oh, and I forgot to mention – the co-worker who insisted the most on the elevator was not only slightly asthmatic, but a bit claustrophobic as well.

Anyway, the place is rather unique. The patrons are mostly jewelers – you might see them exchanging large sums of money and gold or diamonds, but there are a lot of programmers from surrounding offices who also found that place somewhere. Since the place was featured in the last issue of Time Out New York dedicated to cheapest restaurants, there the mix will be a bit more eclectic in the future.

The cuisine can be described as Middle Eastern/Russian, typical of the Baku region. Everything is cooked on site (in fact I’ve witnessed a small kitchen fire once that was quickly taken under control while everyone continued eating), kosher and very tasty. Shish kabobs are excellent (my favorite is rib kabob), so are soups. Just don’t ask for sour cream for your Borscht – and you can be sure that they don’t use Ukrainian pork fat. Other than that it’s very good. There are good salads, golubtsi, pelmeni, shawarma, etc. They even have kompot – Russian fruit punch and green tea served in small “piala” cups with sugar cubes (for drinking “vprikusku”).

Over the years I had lunch at Taam Tov with my boss, my boss’ bosses there, my co-workers, three different livejournal users and many other people. And until I’ve read Time Out New York article I did not know that one floor below Taam Tov there’s a second hole in the wall restaurant called Sabor Latino.

Crouching Tourist, Hidden Bathroom

One of the most annoying things about New York and many other American cities is the lack of pubic bathrooms. There are no paid privately ran WCs like in Europe, so tourists mostly rely on McDonalds and Starbucks stores for bathroomage (if it’s not a word, we have the technology to make it one).

There are a few other esoteric choices like subway bathrooms – despite the popular wisdom that there are none, most terminal stations and big hubs have open bathrooms, which are scary and extremely dirty, but are sometimes functioning. In all of my years in NYC I wasn’t brave enough to actually use one. I have seen a few experimental high tech bathrooms, sort of 24th century port-o-johns around the city. The one that I used once had a five minute time limit after which the doors opened and the floor was automatically cleaned.

But if you are to experience the NYC’s ultimate hidden, but public bathroom, you need to visit the Trump Tower (725 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street ). There is a doorman next to a set of doors that you can see swung open when an unlucky Apprentice is being expelled, but it’s not going to open for you. You need to enter through revolving doors reserved for regular shmoes. But inside you’ll find a huge pink marble lobby housing a public mall, complete with a multistoried lighted waterfall, Starbucks, Tower Records, a small booth hawking “You are fired” t-shirs and mugs, a bunch of luxury stores, a deli counter and – you guessed it – one of New York’s best public restrooms.

Almost everything in the building is adorned with a “T” or with Turmp’s “family crest”. I was expected to see it on trashcans and urinals, but I guess The Donald did not want to go that far with branding. Men’s bathroom has grey marble surfaces and is well maintained. I expected it to be more lavish, but it is still better than the rest.

Wha-what’s happening? I’m losing the crowd. Down to 201 “friends”.

It could be the obscure Mat Groening references, or the photos, or maybe the cubicle monkey. I don’t know, but continuing posting junk as planned. Here, at Deadprogrammer Light Industries we stopped caring about the consumer a long time ago.

Anyway, here are two absolutely excellent commercials that completely stuck in my mind. They totally make me want to drink Starbucks® Double ShotTM drinks in Puma® running shoes despite my knowledge that these are indeed inferior products.

Ok, maybe I am not going to start purchasing Starbucks® and Puma® products, but I do drive my wife nuts singing “Mike, Mike, Miiike! … And he knows one day he just might become … a Director ” and saying “Stick! Stick! Stick! Go! Go! Go!”.

Lyrics to “Glenn! Glenn! Glenn!” are a bit hard to understand, but actually pretty funny:

Glenn
Glenn Glenn Glenn
Glenn Glenn Glenn
Glen Glen Gleeeeeeenn

Glen’s the man going to work
Got his tie
Got ambition

Middle management is right in his grasp
It’s a dream he will never let die
Glen’s the man of the hour
He’s the king of his cube
Status com reports’ve finally met their rival
Burning candle at both ends on his way to the top
He knows one day he just could become …
Supervisor

Interestingly enough “status com reports” is only once referenced by google – and even at that on the site discussing “Glenn!” lyrics.

I also wonder why they chose such a sterile and clean bathroom and kitchen to use in the commercial. I mean, have you ever met a “Glenn” who would clean his apartment that clean?

Lehman Brothers: Matrix Reloaded.

Turns out the Lehman Brothers led display is modular. One morning I’ve seen the maintenance people changing some burned out leds.

Some interesting stuff I learned from http://videosystems.com/ar/video_new_dimensions/ :
One Reality Check project involves a corporate installation in Times Square in New York City. It’s a huge, animated sign on the side of the Lehman Brothers building. The sign shows a mix of animation, information, messages, and mood based on changes in market news, the weather, time of day, or Lehman’s discretion.

The sign is a huge system of LEDs, 5340×736, that stretches vertically from the third floor to the fifth floor of the building. Horizontally, the sign wraps around the building from halfway down the 49th Street side across the entire length of building facing Times Square, then halfway down the 50th Street side. Uniquely, the building’s windows are not obscured by the sign. Rather, the sign is built around them.

By incorporating the sign into the building’s facade, the architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, followed the letter and the spirit of a new city ordinance pushed by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. That ordinance required any new construction in Times Square to have electronically lit signage with a size compensatory to the size of the building. While on many buildings those signs are little more than placards jutting off a facade — a giant Coke bottle or lit billboard — the Lehman Brothers building is itself an electronic sign.

Of course, the odd shape of three large horizontal bands connected by narrow vertical bands of LEDs between the windows of the building begs non-standard content. There are no 4:3 video images here to captivate the tourists.

The sign is kind of cool. I sometimes go to the Starbucks across the street to sit there and watch it.

Titania-Mania

My Titanium fetish is well documented in my journal. Well, here’s more titanium stuff:

There’s this guy on an island off the coast of Canada who makes the best espresso machine tampers. A tamper is a little plunger that is used to pack coffee ground into a portafilter. Tamping is one of the most critical stages in making espresso. It’s almost impossible to get good espresso without proper tamping. In fact, I’ve never seen a barrista in New York do a proper tamp. The one reason why Starbucks coffee became more drinkable is because they use automatic machines these days that tamp the grounds themselves.

I don’t own a Reg Barber tamper because I already had and Ergo Packer, which is also very finely made and instead of having a flat bottom like all other professional tampers or rounded bottom like all the crappy ones, it has a very slightly curved one. “Very scientific!” would cry characters from this novel.

Anyway. Reg finally made a small batch of titanium tampers. Gotta get one.

Moving on. In the book “Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed”, Ben Rich mentioned a special set of titanium shot glasses that his boss used for drinking with the generals. You see, the awesom SR-71 Blackbird was the first plane made entirely out of titanium. I wonder who has those glasses now.

But these guys have excruciatingly pretty titanium stuff. Sake cups, mugs, beer glasses – all made out of titanium. Jewelry is also very nice.

They can even make a street sign out of titanium for ya.

You know, I don’t want a 1958 Plymouth Fury anymore. I don’t even want a 1948 Tucker Torpedo. All I want is a 1956 GM Firebird II, the first titanium body car with a gas turbine engine. Is that too much to ask for?

Aye, Mr Starbuck. Ai-ai-ai-ya-i.

I’ve pretty much settled into a way of working with dead tree books. It works as follows: I carry a pack of tiny little post-its in my pocket. When I find an interesting quote I put a postit on the edge of the page. Later I scan the text of interest to me with my c-pen.
I’ll be posting interesting snippets in my journal for your amusement.

Right now I am reading a books about Starbucks Coffee Corp. called “Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time“.

The author, Howard Schultz tells his rags to riches story. He talks about his father not being a good provider when he was little and how he made it big. He puts the emphasis on how he tried to make Starbucks a company that would treat people like his father better. I also have to cringe every time he mentions coffee quality and “romance” of Starbucks stores.

But sometimes it gets just really hilarious:

About his wife :
“Sheri was on the rise in her career, working for an Italian furniture maker as a designer and marketer. She painted our walls light salmon and began to use her professional skills to create a home in our loft-style space. “

About his friend:
“We had a great life, A few years later, Harold introduced me to his nephew, a rising jazz saxophonist known as Kenny G. We were two young men, each aspiring to make a mark in different fields, and our friendship grew as we faced similar kinds of challenges. Kenny eventually invested in the business, too, and even played at employee events and per- formed benefit concerts at our plant and market openings. His music became a part of the culture of the company. “

Also interesting is that William H. Gates II, William H. Gates III’s dad, helped Schultz fight some legal battles.