Starbucks Invites You to Decorate its Iconic White Cup

Imagine a Starbucks iconic white cup covered in pink hearts, colorful zig zag lines or an artistic sweep of shapes encircling the green Siren logo.

Taking a cue from customers who have been doodling designs on cups for years, Starbucks is launching a White Cup Contest.

The contest encourages customers in the U.S. and Canada to decorate a Starbucks cup with customized art, take a photo of it, and submit the design through social media using #WhiteCupContest. Click here for full contest details. The winning design will be printed on a limited edition Starbucks reusable plastic cup.

“The cups are such a great canvas because you can try an abstract design and just keep adding to it,” said Briar Waterman, creative director for Starbucks digital team. “The design variations can be infinite.”

Waterman said he’s inspired by the creativity he sees throughout the Starbucks social community with cup art that’s been posted on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. People are already experimenting with different mediums, and he suggests they should “turn up the volume” on their creativity with this contest.

“I want to see someone create a pattern with a Japanese brush. This is an inspired community that follows us. I can’t wait to see what they do,” he said.

When asked what motif he would create for a cup, Waterman stares at a cup and is silent for several seconds.

“I’d probably grab a thick black marker and try to make the straightest line I could,” he said, acknowledging that would be tricky because of the shape of the cylindrical cup. “I’d continue until the whole cup was covered except for the logo.”

Geometric shapes catch Jim Hanna’s attention, so he’d begin drawing triangles and squares with indelible ink. Hanna, Starbucks director of environmental impact, says the company’s white cups have an intentionally clean design with a simple logo.

“The iconic white cup is our billboard,” Hanna said “and the reusable cup is an important component of our overall waste reduction strategy.”

Starbucks $1 reusable cup, designed to look like the company’s paper cups, debuted in January of 2013. The plastic cup is sturdier than paper, but thinner than a typical tumbler with a lifespan of about 30 uses. The cups have interior lines to denote a "tall" or "grande" size. Customers receive a dime discount for each refill in the cup, so it pays for itself after 10 uses. And, baristas will clean the reusable cups for customers with a boiling-water rinse before each refill.

“We’ve gotten feedback from customers that one of the reasons they like the cups is that they look almost exactly like our paper cups,” said Hanna. “Now it will be interesting to see what the reusable cup will look like when it has a customer’s hand-drawn illustration on it.”

Inspired to pick up a cup and a marker? Before beginning, check the contest rules for important details including the number of colors that can be used, how to submit an entry, and how to support your favorite designs in the crowd-sourced Starbucks #WhiteCupContest. See some of the early design submissions on the Starbucks Pinterest page.