The Inspiration behind ‘Boy with a Green Balloon’ Mug from Starbucks Dot Collection

Flynn is an energetic little boy, delighted that an oversized green balloon seems to be lifting him off the ground. Always ready for adventure with a striped scarf around his neck, he imagines where the balloon will take him.

That green balloon has transported Flynn to nearly every Starbucks store in the U.S. this holiday season. His likeness is on a double-walled ceramic mug his mother designed for the Starbucks® Dot Collection.

“When I showed the mug to my son he knew instantly ‘that’s me, that’s Flynn,’” said Esther Asuncion, a visual communications designer for Starbucks. “It means so much to me that I was able to contribute to this collection.”

This holiday, a team of more than a dozen in-house Starbucks designers used a modern interpretation of the company’s iconic Siren logo as their inspiration for the Starbucks® Dot Collection. Each of the 100 mugs, tumblers and cups comes in a classic red box for convenient holiday gifting, and each is under $20.

With a mug she designed on Starbucks store shelves, Asuncion remembers a time when she wore the green apron as a store partner, not knowing how her career would develop. She grew up in Guam and moved to the U.S. to study fine art and studio art. Needing a flexible work schedule, she began working as a Starbucks barista in 2001.

“I loved working in a store because of the interaction with customers and fellow partners,” Asuncion said. She also enjoyed doing chalkboard art in her store and others throughout the district, and setting up store merchandise.

An opportunity to work with Starbucks visual presentation team brought her to the company’s headquarters in 2007, where she helps marketing and merchandise groups communicate to partners (employees) how coffee and seasonal products should be displayed in stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Asuncion heard studio artists talking about the Starbucks® Dot Collection early in 2014, but didn’t realize she’d have a chance to contribute. She was approached to submit sketches for one of the design concepts – a boy or girl with a balloon.

“I was really excited. I’m not the kind of person who likes being in the spotlight, but this opportunity made my heart pound in a good way,” she said. “I thought I would have some time to play with different silhouettes, but they needed the illustrations by the next day.”

She sketched a green balloon to represent the Starbucks logo and then explored people jumping in the air with the balloon or holding its string being pulled or lifted in the air. It made the most sense to her to have a child with the balloon. The child who inspires Asuncion the most has dark hair, a huge smile, and sparkling eyes – her son Flynn. The three year old in perpetual motion became a natural model for her design.

As an artist, Asuncion said she is inspired by the rhythm and of “everyday” movement that is “naturally interesting.” That movement, or “dance,” as she called it could be anything from children on a playground or baristas in Starbucks stores making beverages. Her mind captures a scene almost like a still photograph does, isolating the movement and blurring the background. She keeps sketch pads in every room of her house so when one of these scenes becomes clear to her, she draws it.

Watching Flynn play with a balloon, she captured him holding the string with his arm raised high above his head. That illustration was the first option she created, and one of three she submitted to the Starbucks design studio the next morning.

The design of her little boy, overjoyed as a big green balloon lifts him up, was approved “as is.”

“This whole experience was too good to be true,” Asuncion said, “There’s a tiny piece of my heart, outside my body, in customers’ hands.”

About the Starbucks Dot Collection

Asuncion's work and other pieces from the Starbucks® Dot Collection 2014 are available in U.S. company-operated Starbucks® stores through the holidays. Each store has its own selection and the full collection can be found at, while supplies last.

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