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Starbucks Logo

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This post was originally published on the HS Bits Blog, which was active from 2008-2013.

I know that if it had not been pointed out to me, I might have missed the change in Starbucks’ logo earlier this year.

It was a fairly subtle change, all things considered: they discarded the arched “Starbucks Coffee” lettering and encircling frame, leaving only their iconic “siren” figure. There have been many more significant changes to the logo in the company’s history. The rationales behind them make for some interesting insight into the thinking that goes into making a logo that symbolizes a company’s message in a memorable way—and also provide some insight into how logo designers respond to their audiences.

Here’s a test: show your students the new Starbucks logo and see if any of them have difficulty identifying the brand. Then ask them, without showing them the older version, what has changed. If they’re like me, they may have to think a moment: the siren image is so synonymous with the coffee giant that they probably barely noticed or needed the text to tell them what company it represented.

Use the discussion as an opportunity to do some visual analysis. The Famous Logos site provides a great deal of information on design elements. Can your students add this this discussion? Examine some other famous logos and see what your students offer when analyzing their “visual arguments.” (For fun, add this analysis of the Pepsi logo redesign from a couple of years ago.)

This close identification makes the logo easy to parody. Parodies provide great opportunities for analysis, as does any type of satire. In this image, exactly what is being parodied, what is the message, and what elements of the parody make the mockery and/or critique successful (or not)?