Monday, March 14, 2011

Illustration Friday: Stir


Starbucks has caused a bit of a stir in my life by changing their logo.

Whether we make it at home or buy it in a shop, coffee drinkers love their rituals, and being a visual person, my ritual involves seeing the words STARBUCKS COFFEE  happily encircling the little mermaid. The new girl on the block looks a little lost without her nametag, don't you think?

I know that it's not hip and cool to admit it, but I love Starbucks.  (Those of you that are groaning and/or rolling your eyes, stay with me.)  There are four Starbucks locations within walking distance of my house, a fact that does not disturb me one iota. I first walked into Starbucks about 16 years ago. Having just dropped off my youngest at kindergarten, I was exploring the new-found concept of "me" time. Not knowing exactly what to order, I asked for a latte, which has been my drink of choice since that day. My almost-daily latte has seen me through many an early morning getting two kids off to school (my husband would often make the coffee run and he doesn't even drink coffee), and warmed me up at many cold, wet soccer games. (My family still teases me about the time a soccer player accidentally plowed full-speed into the spectators, knocking me and my chair over, and yet I managed to not spill a drop of my coffee.) I'm not completely adverse to change: each November, when the holiday cups appear,  I am filled with glee. (And I love the new perfectly designed stirrer/stoppers.)
I just want the old cups back.

Recently, a commenter on Gawker.com wrote the most articulate argument defense of Starbucks. (Here's the link to the original post.) He wrote:

I get tired of the trendy, hipster attitude of putting down Starbucks, as if pre-Starbucks America was filled with lovely, independent, caring coffee shops that were forced out by this evil, corporate titan. It was not. In fact, "coffee shop" was a synonym for an awful, greasy spoon that you wouldn't go near, relic diners that were far from charming (but of course now we miss them).

Really, before Starbucks there were few places you would actually go to just sit. You met people for lunch or a drink, but "meeting for coffee" was something that happened in old movies and Europe. In many ways, Starbucks trained Americans to think differently, to care more (and yes, pay more) for that black tonic you were tossing down your throat each day, often made in a crusty, petri dish of a pot surrounded by sugar packets and non-dairy creamer in a crummy break room.

Starbucks encouraged people to sit, taste and enjoy. They didn't chase you away once your drink was empty. They put chairs outside, and people slowly began using them (even in winter, like those crazy Europeans!). Because of Starbucks (not in spite of) America became a coffee culture. People started demanding better coffee at home and the office and learned a little more about brewing. New, alternative coffee shops opened up, attracting people allergic to the word "chain." Restaurants and bookstores (some also chains) let people linger longer, and added more year-round outdoor seating. People started to think more about how they lived, what they were eating and drinking, and America became more of a food culture as well.

Is Starbucks corporate and whitewashed? A silly, plastic-y American version of a European lifestyle that's been around forever? Definitely. This is America, if quaint makes money we mass produce quaint. But really, Starbucks is responsible for making this country—our beautiful America with its huge TVs, NASCAR t-shirts and shoot first attitude—a little more sophisticated.

31 comments:

  1. I'm new to your blog. Came over from "Down a Dusty Lane". I like Starbucks too, even if I can only go occasionally. Nice drawing. I wonder if you used pencil or pastel. I wonder why they took their name off the label. I've tried other coffeeshops (like Seattle's Best) and they just aren't the same. So why not keep the name out for everyone to see?

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  3. I like a good Starbuck's latte, boo, but am still a Peet's devotee, and prefer them if I have a choice. :~)
    (sorry for the delete above - wish blogger had an edit button)

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  4. Freebird, it's colored pencil and graphite.

    Paula, I go to Peet's a lot, too, because it's the preference of my walking buddy...I like it very much as well!

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  5. I agree with your opinion on the redesigned logo as well as your philosophy on Starbuck's as a company in general. I also love you illustration. Great composition.

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  6. I wonder what the sales pitch for the logo change was wonder if they are buying out other coffee chains.

    I love coffee but can't afford drinking out at the moment, When I drink out I like people watching.

    Excellent illustration with a nicely balance composition.

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  7. Your illustration is superb! I used to drink Starbucks everyday until it gave me acid reflux. I cannot drink Starbucks anymore. Their coffee is too strong and tastes burnt but now and then I try to brave a cup of mocha. I make my own coffee now with Gevalia. The local Shipley's doughnut shop near my neighborhood allows people to stay and linger. It also gives free doughnut and a cup of coffee to the local mentally ill man who passes by everyday! The retired men hang out there. It's very interesting to overhear their conversations. They are such gossip! They talk about other men's girlfriends. Hahahah! I love coffee shops. Every coffee shop in the island where I grew up and had the opportunity to know about, was always a place for people to converge. However, they were not the young urban people. They were the parents and grandparents who brought along their children and grandchildren. What a lovely tradition it was. Starbucks is a bit too gritty, these days. The young people camp out there and make a mess and stay forever, thus occupying every table. Coffee drinkers who just want to sit down for a cup of coffee have no place to sit! It's no fun anymore.

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  8. I love the variety of feelings about coffee shops. Where I live, they're mostly friendly and clean, with baristas that even remember your name and order. But like anything, I'm sure they vary widely from place to place. But I think we all agree that people-watching is a wonderful pastime!

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  9. Very good and precise illustration.
    I agree with you on Starbucks, whatever the price and change.
    I lately read Starbucks to be 'an overpriced milkshake handout'. It made me laugh, but I have fond memories of early Starbucks days too.
    I lived near an American military base and went there to meet new mums with their toddlers. We had a latte and cake together and then set off to the playground. It wasn't 'me but 'we' time and I enjoyed it so much.
    Paula (Belgium)

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  10. Hi Sarah..... this is really lovely... I like the textures that the paper creates. You should show this to starbucks....

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  11. I like the subdued colour in this and I love my coffee too although we don't have Starbucks here!

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  12. It's a lovely drawing, Sarah, and I enjoyed reading your take on Starbucks and the one from Gawker. I prefer my own jolt of expresso that I make at home each morning, but my husband does partake of Starbucks.

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  13. Love the illustration! Not a fan of coffee myself, although with the time change and a little one who likes to make middle of the night visits to my room, I wish that I was. I could use the caffeine boost!

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  14. Sarah! You sound like a Northwesterner! I love what you wrote, and I LOVE the drawing! Since I live in Starbucks "ground zero," I appreciate reading about your views on it, especially since they are so positive. We seem to swim in coffee here in Seattle (oh, I feel a drawing coming on), and everyone loves it-Starbucks or otherwise. Thanks for the fun and interesting post!

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  15. sarah - this piece is so wonderfully done! i love it and i love starbucks, too! i remember the days before starbucks became such a household name and you are right, there was no "going out to coffee" we are lucky to have them, in my humble opinion. thanks for stopping by!

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  16. If it ain't broke...remember the gap logo change uproar? Makes me wonder what people are thinking at times...great composition...simple and effective...I keep trying to get my students to learn that...

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  17. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I enjoy having a place to just sit and talk with people too. Such a simple idea, why didn't we have that before Starbucks? Nice drawing!

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  18. Wonderful, thoughtful essay this week, Sarah, as well as the one you shared from another blogger. I, too, love Starbucks, although it is mostly an unrequited love! Their predictable, welcoming ambiance says Love to my artistic soul, and if (a) Starbucks started selling smoothies, raw juice and other raw delights and (b) my income went up...I would be there almost daily.

    Thanks so much for your appreciation of my own IF post, image and "word of the week!"

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  19. Wonderful drawing! I'm not too fond of Starbucks coffee. I want to like it because I love the ambiance. The passionfruit icetea leamonade it great though.

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  20. Lovely illo!

    Having worked in coffee shops *and* having lived in Seattle in the 90s, I suppose I could also be accused of being a coffee snob. That said, I agree that Starbucks isn't the ultimate evil that many make it out to be. As to the logo: I recall when it was a crudely drawn double-tailed siren; more like a turn of the century sailor's tattoo than a corporate design.

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  21. Your work is always so pleasant to admire. This one is nice too. I am grateful for Starbuck's and Panera since I travel so much, it is nice to have a familiar comfortable place to unwind when away from home. Thanks for the article.

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  22. It's an interesting move by starbucks, to become starbucks-less. Although I think that by removing the name, it might draw customers who love their coffee a little closer to the brand somehow. A nice evolution I reckon, and great illustration too!

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  23. Nice work Sarah, loving your studies. Your blog is really well presented.

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  24. Really great illustration, love the simplicity of colour.

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  25. your works have a special sensitivity

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  26. A really great illustration on toned paper, the white and green really stand out. I've visited your blog many times and really enjoy your work. Thank you your kind comment on mine.

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  27. Another terrific rendering! I love your thoughts about Starbucks, too. Personally, I'm a tea drinker so I haven't had much reason to visit the Church of the Heavenly Roast. However, I can see the allure; they have a great product that keeps people coming back for more...what's wrong with that?

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  28. Thank you so much for the nice comment you left on my blog! I found you on IF a few weeks back. I love your illustrations; you take colored pencils to levels higher than they even knew they could go. This one is no exception! I actually like Starbucks too, just not the regular coffee. Too strong for me :)

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  29. Great illustration as well as the previous ones. You are amazingly talented! I have to agree with you on the logo change. It was such an iconic logo, and great the way it was.
    Thank you by the way for your kind comments on my blog!

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  30. Sarah - I'm so happy that you foubnd my blog and left a comment because now I've found you too!

    Your work is wonderful and I'm going to enjoy browsing your previous posts but, for now, the smell of coffee is all I can think about.

    Our nearest Starbucks is about an hour away so it's a microwave latte with Nescafe Gold for me. Sigh. .....

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  31. What a great post, I'm not too fussed if I'm not drinking a coffee in a Starbucks, I would'nt go there just to be there...coffee is coffee.

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