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By Heidi Peiper / #starbucks Newsroom
For 20 years, the return of the #starbucks holiday cups have marked the arrival of the season. It’s a ritual for many that’s as beloved as that first sip of Peppermint Mocha.
It’s not easy to find the very first #starbucks holiday cups, which made their debut in stores in 1997. Few were saved, and electronic design files were lost in an earthquake in 2001. Even an Internet search is unyielding, with the cups having made their arrival long before the first selfie.
Luckily, designer #sandynelson, a #starbucks alumna, stashed away a set of these cups, along with other artifacts from her 14 years working in #starbucks Creative Studio. She remembers the design fondly, one of her first assignments at #starbucks. November 9, 2017 Coffee & Company How a cup became a tradition: 20 years of #starbucks holiday cups Share Downloads
“It was August, and I had just started with the company,” Nelson said. “We were working on holiday creative for the season to come. We had what felt like a hundred cup designs pinned up on the wall. Then Howard [Schultz] came by, looked at all of them, and picked my design. I couldn’t believe mine was chosen.”
That first cup wasn’t really red – at least not the holiday red that #starbucks has become known for. It was closer to a magenta, and the cup also came in three more colors: sapphire, emerald and amethyst. The design featured swirls and hand-drawn holly leaves that were flecked with coffee beans. Download video for media use
Nelson was in Anchorage visiting a friend when she saw the cups in a store for the first time.
“I remember seeing the cups piled high on the counter, and I realized ‘this is big,’” she said. “It was thrilling.” It would be two more years, in 1999, before the #starbucks cup would don its signature red color. #joncannell, manager Creative Design, was part of the design team that year. “I remember it all started when the creative director asked us, ‘What is holiday red? Is it burgundy? Is it more of a ruby color,'” Cannell said. “We brought in all these holiday items in a range of reds, and we landed on a red that we all agreed on.”
That year, they settled on a vibrant shade of candy-apple red with whimsical drawings of snowflakes, stockings and other images that evoked the spirit of the holiday.
“There was a response to that shade of red,” Cannell said. “It was a joyous color, and it really resonated with customers.”
Over two decades, #starbucks holiday cups became emblematic of the holiday, with designs that reflect the joy of the season with scenes of celebration and gathering. That shade of red was the foundation for the cups, the canvas for each creation that has evolved over the years.
The cup became a symbol of the holidays, the anticipation growing with each passing year. Over the years, online countdown clocks have sprung up as speculation builds on social media. It is now a fixture in popular culture, the star of both morning talk shows and late night stand-up routines. Passions for the cup have run so high that even the design could become controversial, as it did in 2015 when #starbucks introduced a modern two-toned, ombré red design.
The 2017 design echoes themes from cups of years past with intimate moments connected by swirls of red and white. But this time the coloring book inspired design leaves room for customers to add their own color.
Maybe even magenta.
More information on the press release
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