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Coffee in a Bottle: Starbucks' Various Versions

When a prominent company comes seeking one's work, any freelance artist's heart beats a little faster. Such was the case when I was contacted by the design firm working on a new Starbucks product.

When I recently saw a display of Iced Coffee by Seattle's reknowned coffee giant, I reflected back to 1996 when I received the call and subsequently did the lettering for a new product: a bottled, carbonated, spiced and sweetened coffee. Sound a little odd? Well, it evidently was too odd, because the California test market for Mazagran ended with the scrapping of this bottled beverage. It never made it to most grocery store shelves. Indeed, I got my bottle from someone who ended up having a case of it in his garage! Read about Mazagran in this blog. The story is well-told by this coffee-loving blogger. He didn't say who did the lettering (maybe I should write to him), but the story does jive with what I was told at the time.

Shortly after the failure of Mazagran, Starbucks invented the Frappuccino™, which is still with us today. Again, hand lettering was used for the identity of this product. Incorporating personality into a name is the specialty of lettering artists, so we were frequently sought out by design teams in the 1990's. It's always a fun exploration to try expressive letters and words with pen and brush and submit them in hopes of capturing the spirit of the product.

Contemporary typography has shifted to a cleaner, more neutral style. A case in point: Iced Coffee. There's no story here, as with Mazagran. It's the straight-up beverage, something to chill and open up on a hot summer day. I'll save my bottle of iced coffee, not for the graphic design, but for the day when cold coffee actually sounds good.

My mid-90's lettering of "Mazagran" contrasts the contemporary presentation of "Iced Coffee." Click on the photo to see the lettering up close.



"frappuccino™" was also issued in the mid-90's, but it succeeded.



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