From my days in the school paper all the way to my current job, I’ve participated in many discussions and heated debates on the matter of logos.  It’s not that a logo is the be-all-end-all of branding, but as a visual element, it occupies a central space in the way things are marketed and (inevitably) sold.

The story goes that Seattle’s Best Coffee, the part of the Starbucks empire that deals with frou-frou coffee, have moved their logo direction from this…

To this:

Streamlined, sleek, and clean… anything but coffee.

People who are more creatively-inclined than I am may disagree, but I believe that logos embody more than just a message; they are graphic representations of the spirit of the brand.  Not everyone may know that Seattle’s Best Coffee was bought by Starbucks (along with every other storefront perpendicular to an existing Starbucks store), but it’s a specialty coffee shop: it appeals to coffee enthusiasts, those who don’t like the McDonaldized Ventis and frappés and quick-service macchiato.  It’s less “coffee;” it can either be:

Wireless, although a lot of people do go to coffee shops for WiFi, or:

“Specialty coffee;” if car is to gasoline, then man is to coffee.  Or even:

Not exactly very appealing.

I wouldn’t go into connotations of blood, menstruation, and a clitoris for all I care, but logos are meaningful; you can often create an entire brand strategy and make – or break – your product on the connotations of a single logo.  While it’s true that the sleek and streamlined Seattle’s Best Coffee logo looks good on engine oil additives, it’s not “coffee,” or “specialty coffee,” for that matter: the product that SBC is supposed to sell, and is in the business of selling. Communicating a message doesn’t end with a logo, but it sure begins there.

I’m not saying that SBC should revert to their old logo – it would do well if they make a similar logo but gets rid of the beer elements – but the new logo simply doesn’t work.  It doesn’t do what Seattle’s Best is supposed to do: scream coffee, sell coffee, and specialize in coffee.

Then again, I’m reminded of…

… and I thank whatever gods may be that Starbucks didn’t consider the coffee-for-kids market.  Yet.