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Branding Essentials for Designers

Lesson 4 of 14

Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 1


Branding Essentials for Designers

Lesson 4 of 14

Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 1


Lesson Info

Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 1

The next part of the journey is Starbucks. We're actually shooting this here in Seattle, and this is where I moved to from Denmark to work for Starbucks. Everyone's heard of Starbucks, anybody not heard of Starbucks? So Starbucks is a great brand, and everybody knows the history, Howard Schultz and all that. The thing about Starbucks is everyone talks about Starbucks as that connected experience. There's a lot more than just the coffee. When I started working at Starbucks, I didn't know about coffee. Was that a coffee plant, a coffee tree, I don't even know if I was sure. But I was intrigued by about the company, was it was just starting to get into some other stuff, like music. They had just bought this company called Hear Music, and I remember seeing Howard Schultz on the cover of Fast Company talking about the future of Starbucks. And it was like, wow, that's sounds pretty cool, it's not just about coffee. He was talking about, it's basically like the community centers, the gatherin...

g places and all that, and that has a story to it that I could really understand. But first just like with Nike and Lego, you're joining the religion. I had to learn all the tenets of the religion, because I was an evangelist getting the acolytes to come in. So I went to a coffee plantation. I went to Costa Rica, and I met the coffee growers, and the environment of the coffee was just, wow. I couldn't believe. I picked tobacco when I was young in Kentucky, and that's a lot of work. Especially when you have to get the tobacco worms off, and you have to flip their heads off, eeesh. I think my hands are still stained from picking tobacco. I've never used it though, that's for sure, since then. But the same thing, it's very hand intensive. There's all these, shade grown coffee, and all these different things. So, it's an amazing story. And the families, and the relationship that the company had with these farmers, and these plantations. So, being there and experiencing that, the growers and how they, the next process when they dried it. I didn't even know that they were coffee cherries. I thought the beans were, I don't know what I thought, like peanuts, I guess that come out of a shell. I was ignorant. But they come with these cherries, the pit, that's what the coffee bean is the pit of the cherry. So they dry those off and they dry those out in the sun, and there's different ways of doing it, and the amount of time you dry it. All this process, and then they ship them to all the different countries in the world that Starbucks has their roasting plants. And so the roasting is amazing too, there's one in Kent, Washington near here. I went there, and just that process and the amount of time. The light roast, the medium, the dark roast, it's a real science and art at the same time. So, experience each process. And then the tasters, they taste, they have the shipments of coffee, they'll taste it to make sure it meets their specifications that they expected when they bought the crop. I was there when they would throw out, or they would not send to the consumer, a batch of coffee because it didn't meet their standards. And then when I started at Starbucks, I had the opportunity, and they encourage people to do this, where I worked inside a store. So, that's where I learned the real magic of Starbucks, that experience inside a store. I moved here with my family in October, so school had already started and all that stuff. Moved into a neighborhood, and neighbors said, where are you working, I said, Starbucks, they go, oh good cool, Starbucks. You know you work at Microsoft, or Starbucks, or Amazon, you come here to Seattle. So, as I told you, I was working inside a store, right? So, there I was wiping off the tables, taking out the trash, anything to not be on the register, that was a pressure place. I'll make the coffee, let me grind it up for you, I'll take out that trash for you. So I worked in there for a week, so the neighbors came in, and they saw me, wiping the table down, and sweeping the floor, they go, oh, oh, you work at Starbucks, okay. So they're trying to, they thought corporate headquarters maybe is where I was working, cause I didn't tell them my role. But that was the greatest introduction that I could have had to Starbucks, because everyone as Starbucks is called a partner. It doesn't matter if you work in a store, or you're Mr. Vice President of Global Creative. You're on equal footing with everyone, and it's a great experience. That experience working in a store really set the tone for me understanding the brand. So, yes, I went and learned about coffee the way it's grown and everything else, but really that experience of how someone interacts with that brand was the most valuable thing. As I watched, I'd be there all day, so I'd watch, I'd open the store. I'd watch people come in. Big rush, you know the coffee rush when you come in. Then they would, I think I have a picture, big coffee rush when you come in at the beginning of the day, and then midmorning, and midmorning it's some older folk in the neighborhood that come in, and sometimes take a little nap on the couch. Put their head back with their cup. And then noon with the noontime rush. The afternoon, there'd be kids that would come in from school and they'd be doing their homework, and wait for their parents to get off work. So they would come in, they'd buy a little snack, they'd sit there doing their homework. Then kind of the going home from work rush, and then at night it was more of a social, you'd see couples come in and things like that. I remember standing there once, and I looked around the store, and I looked and I just imagined what everyone was doing there. But I saw there was eight people over there in the corner, it looked like a Homeowner Association, and then there was a mother and a son over there, and they had a Scout book. Oh, they're working on their Scout project. Then I saw a couple over there by the fireplace. I went through the store and I thought, this is amazing. Those of you that have been to the UK, and England, and you've experienced the English pub. You go in there, and there's whole families in there. That's the community center. And that's really what Starbucks has become, being kind of the community center for neighborhoods, for towns. Observing that really set the tone for what I was charged to do, what I wanted to do for Starbucks. And I think the moment where it really hit me was this, I was in the back room, and I was running back to get some more something, and I saw this, really caught my eye, it was a clipboard with a yellow legal pad. It had all these names on it. It said, Suzy, cute little pink purse, tall, nonfat latte. What's that? What's it doing in the back room? They go, oh that's our 100 club. I go, what's that? The 100 club is, we've all vowed to memorize 100 customers and their drinks. Really? Yeah. So, that's a little cheat sheet, cute little pink purse, or the dog, or whatever it is the device to remember. So I thought that was really cool. A few months later I went back to that store, I went back into the back room. It was missing. So they said, no, it's over there. They had this whiteboard over there, and they had the 200 club. So, they'd all done the 100, working on 200 names. So you think of some of the things we talked about in our last session about knowing your brand, and methodically executing against that. That's an example. That's a very emotional type thing, but it's also very methodical. Okay, we're gonna memorize 100 customers names. Well, you naturally do that anyway, but we're gonna work on that, we're gonna do it even better. I thought it was one of the greatest examples that I've seen of who Starbucks is. Who Starbucks is, the differentiator for Starbucks isn't the coffee. Starbucks has great coffee, some people like it, some people don't. They have great products. They have food and all those things in there. But that's not their differentiator, because anyone can source coffee from Costa Rica or Africa or different places. But their differentiator is that one to one connection that you have with the barista. So you think of that, when you walk into a store, if you're a regular at a store. You walk in and they go, hey Stanley, how's it going? Your regular, you want your regular, and so they just write it up. If any of you have experienced that, where you go to a store and they just write your name and your tall soy chai, they write it on there and they just put it up there, and you didn't even say anything. You go, yeah, you're kinda VIP, rock star, walk in, they know me, they know me here, don't worry. So, that's a great experience, and what it does, it just makes you feel good for a minute. There are lonely people in the world. Think of that as an experience of your day. Someone's kind to you, someone cares about you, someone calls you by name, it's really cool. So for me, that was that personal connection with the brand. Now it's like, I know who Starbucks is now. Starbucks is in lots of places. This just shows everything. When you walk in their store just think of what you see in their store. You see coffee of course, there's tea, there's water, there's snacks, there's food, there's merchandise, cups and things to buy. They've gotten into lots of things. They have music, just lots and lots of things in the store. What kind of unites all those things, what ties them all together. At Starbucks, the first time I presented something at Starbucks, I walked in, me and the team we'd created something, I think it was packaging, and showed it to them, and they go, very thoughtfully, hmmmm you know that doesn't feel like Starbucks. Uh oh, okay, what feels like Starbucks then? We'll know it when we see it. (laughter) Oh, okay. This is gonna be a long job tenure if we don't do something about that. So what happens with any brand, if it's a start up or a brand of a long tenure, there's this tribal knowledge. It's usually the founder of course, and then it passes down. So there's people that have worked there for a long time, and they know who the brand is, they've internalized it, they've created the brand. What you have to do, is you have to suck it out of them. You have to suck it out of them, and you have to put it down on paper. You have to say this is who our brand is, and the reason why is because now you have 100 employees, 500, 1000, 10,000 employees, they all don't get to talk to the founder, the tribal knowledge people. They have to show up at their desk, they have to know, they have to get a good head start on who that brand is. So that is the purpose of a brand book is to say, this is who we are, this is what we talk, smell, taste, all that, like. That's what I did, one of the first things I did when I got there, was like, after that incident, it's like, okay let's grab all the stuff we've done over the years. Got a big conference room table, spread it all out on the table. Stuff we're doing right now, stuff we've done in the past. Okay, tribal knowledge people, come gather around. What for you feels like Starbucks here? So they pull out, the few things. We ended up with this smallish pile over on the end of the table. That's the first step. Alright, good, that feels like Starbucks to you. Why does that feel like Starbucks? That's the hardest thing for people to do is articulate. I don't like green. Is that a personal opinion or is that a brand opinion? Is that a brand thing? So you have to get it out of personal, cause what happens is, people come and go. People come into brands, founders come into brands, and they leave, they get bought out or they get pushed out or whatever it is. What is the thread that carries through? So you have to put that down. What we did is we were able to extract what we could from the tribal knowledge people, and then from that bring some natural ignorance to the table, which is always healthy, and create some guidelines. This is what feels right for the brand, and this is why is feels right for the brand. So create the brand story. So this is the brand book, the Starbucks brand book. I should have brought one to flip through for you. Basically the way it's set up, it came in a coffee bag, a foil pouch, like the coffee comes in. A lot of metaphors there, freshness, and all those things. It actually had that little, the air hole that allows the gas to escape on there, it even had one of those things. Then you pulled it out, and then, as you can see, it has a hole in it. So, through the hole you see the logo. So, that's the first half of the book, so see the logo through it. And that's to remind you of course, every page, it's all about the brand. And then you turn it over, that's the who we are, and then you turn it over, this is what we look like, is the second half of the brand. And inside it, there was a brand video, and also a little mini poster that had the brand promise, brand characteristics, our mission, all that on it. As I mentioned, your brand books, need to look like the brand as well. Here's some copy. It tells a history of Starbucks, but it's done in a way that feels like Starbucks as well. And then, of course, some of the practical things that you would have in the second half of the brand style guide. And we'll get into a lot more the the brand books and style guides later as well. But you see this, we have logos, type. This is colors. So you think of brand colors, everybody needs a focus on what colors you're gonna use. So, here's a, if you look at this, these are pantone colors. What's different about them? They have that texture, they have a texture on them, so they feel like Starbucks. Even the colors are treated in a way to feel like Starbucks. And then through illustrations, that feels very much like Starbucks, and that's something Starbucks has used for a long time. The brand book, what we were able to do, the most important thing we were able to do, is come up with these five filters. And I'll talk about those. So this is the way that you look, the handcrafted illustration, the way that you talk. You have to determine what your personality is, the same way you and me, we're just getting to know each other, I don't go straight to, hey, how's your mom, and slapping you on the back and talking about old experiences cause we don't know each other yet. But what level do I want to engage with you on? Are we gonna stay cordial acquaintances, or are we gonna be buddy buddy, or are we gonna be bros. So, that's all different level, there's bro brands, and you have a different language, dude and all those sorts of things. And then you have more formal brands, and then you have kind of the in between. And so Starbucks is kind of that in between, it's friendly, but it's not chummy. So you have to determine that. Graphic elements, and then photography, I think that's here, illustrations, more illustrations, and then photography. Photography, even illustrations has to be about the product or the experiences around it. So, illustrations about, you see a lot of stuff around the coffee plantations, where the coffee's grown. I see about the people in those countries that work on the coffee. You see illustrations about the experience in the store. The same with photography, we wanted to make it very human photography, so very approachable. It doesn't look super professional, never posed, it all looks very natural. What we did, is we created these five filters. They were creative filters, brand filters, and we used those on everything. There's five of them. There's handcrafted, artistic, sophisticated, human, and enduring. And you'll see them several times here. So what those filters are, those are just if you're describing a person, that person is those things, so the same thing we're describing the brand. What we did, that's the result of that meeting, the conference room table, all of that stuff. We narrowed it down to this, and this is what they all had in common. Everything that felt right for Starbucks had a handcrafted element, handcrafted, artistic, there was an artistic element, handcrafted, artistic, sophisticated, human, so sophisticated meaning it wasn't low brow, no low brow humor. Human, there's a human element to it, it could be the way it's spoke, the copy, it could the way it looked, the content, there's a person in it and they look human, they look approachable. And enduring, and enduring means, we don't chase trends. We're in it for the long haul, and human and enduring usually go together very well. So the trick of this little trick, is they all have to have all five, every one has to be in there. So now, we've moved it from, I don't like green, to that doesn't have a handcrafted element in it. That doesn't look sophisticated. What we've created is a common language now. What we've done is, I'll show you an example in a minute, of some of the stuff we did. What we did, is we also instituted a quarterly review of the work that we did, and this was extremely valuable because we did it globally. We sent work out that had been created around the globe. This is by agencies in house and all that. Then we looked at it, and then we rated it according to those filters, handcrafted, artistic, sophisticated, human, enduring. We did like, a one to 10 scale. So what happened is, we moved closer and closer to all saying the same thing, because we now had a common language.

Class Description


  • Bring a unique human touch to a brand story
  • Define brand attributes, vision, and strategies for naming
  • Employ tactics to ensure brand consistency across all platforms


A great brand is the culmination of strategic thought, experience, and a little magic. It all results in a story that creates brand fans. A logo, a name and identity are starting points, but by themselves don’t create successful brands. Learn what it takes to build a lasting and meaningful brand in Branding Essentials for Designers with Stanley Hainsworth.

Stanley is the the former creative director at Nike, Lego and Starbucks and now founder of the multi-disciplinary creative juggernaut – Tether. In this class he teaches the role stories play in developing a strong brand identity and how to create a strategic roadmap for sharing a brand story with the world. You’ll learn tools and methodologies for creating brands that can be applied to projects of all sizes.

Through this class you’ll develop the skills you need to offer clients the complete package when it comes to branding – not just a logo. Deepen your branding know-how and infuse meaning into your design work with branding whiz, Stanley Hainsworth.


This class is for design professionals, entrepreneurs, startup founders, marketing and branding managers, and creatives interested in learning more about branding.


Underneath that highly unorthodox shock of follicular iconoclasm lies the turbocharged brain of a highly attuned branding machine. Stanley mastered the art of brand storycraft while serving as the creative-in-chief at three of the great brands of our time: Nike, Lego, and Starbucks, where he was VP of Global Creative during an era when the now-ubiquitous brand matured into the cultural icon we know today. His creative influence extended from products and campaigns to all consumer touch points. Prior to that, as Global Creative Director for the Lego Company in Denmark, Stanley directed a total visual overhaul of the brand, including advertising, interactive, packaging, retail and brand stores. At Nike, Stanley worked on everything from the Olympics to creating Nike Entertainment. He has written books on branding, is an educator, a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and is a sought after speaker on branding and design worldwide. 

Connect with Stanly online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Huffington Post


  1. Personal Journey

    By telling his story, Stanley models personal branding in action - how did a small town western Kentucky boy come to realize that he, himself, was a brand? Stanley addresses the fundamentals here: what exactly is branding? How are brands like people? What are the key questions to ask when developing a brand?

  2. Defining the Brand: Nike

    How is joining a brand like joining a religion? What is the power of listening to the consumer? How do you set up a sell-out new product launch? Stanley takes you through his process in building a stand out brand as creative director at Nike: you get an inside look at his branding strategy that brought the original product line to the full 360-degree consumer experience it is today.

  3. Brand Visuals: Lego

    Stanley takes his personal brand to the next level and creates his own role at Lego. He explains the process of rebranding - taking a well known corporate brand beyond its logo - and the roles of a brand book, brand promise, and developing visual language in this process. He answers important questions: What is the relationship between the emotional and practical in successful branding? How do you develop a reciprocal relationship with your brand fans, or most loyal customers?

  4. Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 1

    A good brand develops a “gut feeling” identity throughout the years; as a newcomer to a team, how do you learn this so-called “tribal knowledge”? What are brand guidelines and how are they essential to brand building? Stanley explains how to codify the ephemeral “feeling” of a brand in order to produce consistent brand messaging.

  5. Fine Tuning the Brand: Starbucks Part 2

    You’ve established brand guidelines and you’ve created a brand book; how do you use these tools to bring your brand to every touch point with a consumer? Look inside Stanley’s process of redesigning product packaging and his reasoning behind decisions made. Learn how to go beyond traditional ad campaigns to create a memorable brand experience with your customers - to deepen their emotional attachment.

  6. Building a Creative Environment

    The creative process gets messy in the best way - how do you create a work environment that fosters creativity? Why is it important that brand messages and core values are reflected in a workplace itself? Designers often work together across disciplines, but how do you involve executives in the creative process? From t-shirts to competitions and design camps, Stanley discusses how to cultivate creativity in the workplace.

  7. Inside Tether: Behind the Scenes Studio Tour

    Take an exclusive tour within Tether, Stanley’s own branding agency to see a real-life example of a creative playground. From big-name clients, to developing a new brand, to personal projects, Stanley gives you behind the scenes access.

  8. Brand Case Study: Gatorade

    How do you reposition a company to remain relevant in a shifting market? What do you keep, change, and enhance in your brand strategy? When do you listen to consumer feedback, and when do you just make decisions? Stanley models how to expand beyond a specific product to create a line of customer offerings.

  9. Brand Case Study: Awake Chocolate and Swans Island

    Coca-Cola and Pepsi rely on big name recognition, but what about the smaller players in more niche markets? In this class, Stanley demonstrates the power of effective product packaging coupled with strategic marketing. Learn creative ways to harness social media to not only advertise, but also drive public relations. This is Marketing Techniques and Brand Storytelling 101.

  10. Brand Case Study: The Grove School

    Tether brand manager Kari Strand outlines the process of a unique project: a new brand involving many stakeholders in students, families, the company,and its teachers as essentially brand ambassadors. From developing a brand name to a myriad of marketing materials, you’ll see multi-use touch points that not only communicate important brand messaging, but also represent the brand’s core values. Kari models how to develop common language to dialogue with potential customers.

  11. LIVE Brand Case Study: Live Love Snack

    How do you reposition a brand to enter the mass market? Tether designers take us deep into the world of product packaging: learn how to problem-solve and watch as their designs evolve with each iteration. The Tether team answers essential design questions: how do you lead an effective brainstorming process? How does narrative fit into design? Why is hierarchy of information important?

  12. LIVE Brand Case Study: Squatch Watch

    What does a multi-disciplinary approach actually look like inside a creative agency? The Tether team demonstrates the benefits of non-work order projects by participating in a soapbox derby.

  13. Evolution of a Brand

    Long-term success requires evolution. Learn about the power of storytelling and the role of compelling taglines in the evolution of BMW motorcycles and Keen footwear. How do you build upon an existing legacy to expand into different markets? You do you re-ignite brand buzz?

  14. Create Your Own Opportunities

    Stanley dips into the not-for-profit arena; what does branding for a cause look like? How do you create consistent identity throughout the many arms of an international organization? Stanley returns to an old pet project that stuck - a concept he couldn’t shake. He closes with an affirmation: trust your journey.


Lily Raz

Stanley's branding class was packed with so many actionable takeaways!! I learned so much about the thinking behind how branding is important for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors. One of the biggest things I learned was when he said describing a brand is like describing a person to someone. He talked a lot about the process that it takes to build successful brands and keep them true to their promise. I really loved when he did a tour of his agency Tether. This class is filled with lots of creative material and great energy. I definitely recommend it! Thank you Creative Live!!


I am LOVING this class. I have heard "brand" explained in a lot of different ways, but Stanley's metaphors and examples made such sense to me that I actually feel like I have a firm grasp of what it means, and how I can make my own. Describing and showing his process with various brands was especially helpful. I feel empowered and excited (rather than overwhelmed, nervous, or uncertain) about strengthening my brand. Without Creative Live, I would not be able to take a class from an expert like Stanley Hainsworth, so I am especially grateful for today's course. Thank You! - Alexis (a.k.a. Free Range Al)


He is fun and engaging... This class has given me a whole new perspective of how to build my brand and keep it consistent as I go. The videos he shows are soo fun, and they show off his great sense of humor, and fun personality!!