Sighting: Buccaneer in Starbucks

It seems our fonts have invaded the world of “corporate coffee.” Earlier this week, while picking up a coffee for my daughter at the local Starbucks I noticed that they were selling mugs labeled “Austin,” presumably in an effort to make them seem less corporate and generic and more tied in to our local culture.

Having no larger interest in coffee or its marketing, the interesting thing to me was that the font they picked for the word “Austin” was our Buccaneer font, one of the featured fonts in our Howard Pyle collection. Even more interesting was that Starbucks, which turned a profit of over $150 million last quarter, apparently as a result of radical cost-cutting measures. Sadly one of the areas where they appear to be economizing is in the graphic design department, because based on subtle hints in the appearance of the letters it’s clear that they are using the shareware version of the font released way back in about 1994 rather than springing lose $24 from their corporate profits to actually pay for the font.

When Buccaneer was first released as a shareware font on AOL it had a very poorly executed capital “A” which is stood out like a sore thumb. It was quickly replaced in every commercial release of the font, including the version shipped to those who registered the shareware with a different version of the “A” which fits in better with the rest of the characters. As is the nature of the internet, that old version is still circulating 15 years later, probably stripped of its documentation and maybe even the headers with the registration info.

Starbucks or their design minions are hardly the first people to use a font without doing due diligence and checking to make sure they had a legitimate version of the font, but it seems ironic given their enormous profits and mercenary corporate image — perhaps doubly ironic that they should be trying to endear themselves to the Austin community while exploiting the work of a member of that community.

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