Form and Function at Starbucks

March 2, 2012

The next time you enjoy a Starbucks half-caf, doublewhip, skinny venti mocha, take a good look at the siren logo.  There’s no longer a ring encircling her, nor the word ‘coffee’ lettered next to her.

The redesign is the work of Mike Peck ’99 and his Starbucks design team. Redesigning the logo was no small affair, taking nearly two years in the studio and involving six designers as well as brand planners, architects, and senior executives. Peck’s team created hundreds of prototypes.  “One day, we had three designers working on just the hair or just the eyes of the siren,” he says. 

When Peck presented the team’s creative concepts to Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO looked over the designs, paused, and said, “We’re going to do this.”

Says Peck, “If you could breathe in the meeting, and I’m not sure I could, you would have realized it was history in the making.”  The work was a corporate secret for nearly a year before Starbucks launched the logo design in 2011.  Peck couldn’t even tell his own mother about his excitement around the logo work.

As a senior design manager for Starbucks, Peck also creates Starbucks’ consumer packaging. He finds that his UA education and memories of his freshman architecture class help direct his concepts: a cup that holds hot liquids must be designed around the need to manage heat — form follows function. 

“I always thought of architecture as an art form,” he says, “but here you had to learn how to build something before you actually built it.”

Peck eventually changed majors from architecture to graphic design.  In the School of Art, he learned similar concepts about form and function. This tenet of his education has served as the cornerstone for his accomplished design career.

After graduation, Peck landed advertising gigs in the Big Apple, working on campaigns forThe New York Times and Macy’s, before taking on his design role at Starbucks. The siren logo redesign has been a highlight of his career, he says. “I will be lucky if I ever get a project like this again. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. And to be able to present it to the CEO was a treat.”