Redditor jmay69 paid a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and noticed a statue. The bronze sculpture of a mermaid from the 16th century that appears above looks a lot like the Starbucks symbol. She snapped a picture of it and got a large response. The drawing of the green lady on coffee cups has long since been seared into our minds thanks to commercials, frappuccino happy hours, and millions of locations--seriously, they're like the Chase bank of coffee.
Starbucks claims the design is based on "a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid, or Siren." It was created by an artist named Terry Heckler, who has had a lot of influence on major brands. He has developed identities of many major brands. He created logos for brands like Panera Bread, Cinnabon, and New Balance. Who knew?
When it came to Starbucks, it was obvious that Heckler was the man for the job. He used to drink 16 cups a day (wow, man). He said to the Seattle Times he had to quit because it wasn't sustainable. When talking about the meaning behind the Starbucks symbol, it sounded like he drew from his experience of being a coffee junkie: "It's a metaphor for the allure of caffeine, the sirens who drew sailors into the rocks."