The first thing you should know is that it’s not red. Not at all—there’s not a crimson bow or background in sight.
The next thing you should know, though, is that the new Starbucks cup—the thing unveiled this time each year, traditionally as a be-cardboarded invocation of The Holiday Season—has nothing explicitly festive about it. This cup, contra previous years’ worth of Starbucks seasonal cuppery, features no ornaments. It depicts neither reindeer nor snowflakes nor snowmen nor softly aggressive exhortations to “pass the cheer.” There’s simply a lacily intricate line drawing of people, set against a backdrop of green—and against a backdrop of white, where the Starbucks logo would traditionally be.
The most striking thing about the cup isn’t its Where’s Waldo-y intricacy, nor even its explicit lack of corporate branding. Instead, it’s Starbucks’s explanation for the design of the cup—one that is explicitly, and self-assuredly, and actually just a little bit shockingly, political.
As the company explains it in its press release:
A single line connects the figures. A coffee farmer, a family, a barista, friends embracing. A mosaic of more than a hundred people drawn in one continuous stroke is featured on a new Starbucks green cup.
The new green cup is available exclusively in U.S. Starbucks stores starting today (November 1), for a limited time while supplies last…
Starbucks commissioned artist Shogo Ota to create the artwork. His threaded design represents shared humanity and connection, serving as a symbol for stitching people together as a united community.
And here’s how Starbucks’s chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, explains it: “The green cup and the design represent the connections Starbucks has as a community with its partners (employees) and customers,” he said. “During a divisive time in our country, Starbucks wanted to create a symbol of unity as a reminder of our shared values, and the need to be good to each other.”