Meet the Starbucks Siren

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 6 2011 11:05 AM

Meet the Starbucks Siren

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Starbucks announced yesterday that it's going to 

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 this March. This iteration

the fourth in the company's 40-year history

drops the words "Starbucks Coffee" from the perimeter, supposedly because the Seattle-based monolith is now expanding beyond java-based products.

But the real   reason seems to be that Starbucks just wants its beloved mascot, "the Siren," to be free free! to spread her love n' light around the world. "We've allowed her to come out of the circle,"  says  CEO Howard Schultz.

Just who is the Siren? Starbucks is so glad you asked. In a blog post on the company Web site, Steve M., a writer who worked on the new logo, explains :

She is a storyteller, carrying the lore of Starbucks ahead, and remembering our past. In a lot of ways, she's a muse always there, inspiring us and pushing us ahead.

And she's a promise too, inviting all of us to find what we're looking for, even if it's something we haven't even imagined yet.

She means something different to every one who sees her, who knows her. For me she's kind of the final say on the spirit of everything I write and everything we do. Even as I'm writing this, I wonder what she thinks. (She likes it, by the way.)

Here we are today. Our new evolution liberates the Siren from the outer ring, making her the true, welcoming face of Starbucks. ... She stands unbound, sharing our stories, inviting all of us in to explore, to find something new and to connect with each other. And as always, she is urging all of us forward to the next thing. After all, who can resist her?

Not me.

Steve's New Age-y folderol doesn't really track with the mythological notion of the siren i.e., a beautiful half-woman, half-animal creature who seduces men and then leads them to their death. It turns out the Starbucks' siren is adapted not from Greek myth but from a 16th-century Norse woodcut. Steve explains how the logo designers found her by poring through old maritime-themed books, hoping to find something that would "capture the seafaring history of coffee and Seattle's strong seaport roots." He goes on to describe the original icon as "a seductive mystery mixed with a nautical theme."

Also, though she's often referred to as a "mermaid," the Starbucks' Siren is technically more like a  melusine she's got a split tail. (Thereby solving  the most vexing problem with mermaids , which I think of as the  Splash Dilemma: Namely, how do you have sex with a fish-woman with no crotch?) And no, she's not flashing you double peace signs or a two-handed  English "up your bum!" ; those are actually her tailfins she's showing off. Oh, and she used to have boobs. You can read all about her evolution from  au naturel  hippie chick to stylized corporate icon in  this history

 



 

Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.