Designing the Updated Starbucks Dress Code and Partner Experience

Just this morning, Starbucks officially announced updates to its dress code policy, which now allows baristas to have visible tattoos (among other long-awaited updates)! The new dress code is a part of the overall “Partner Experience” which was also announced this morning with its new policies. And I can finally, and so proudly say, I got to design the one-pagers explaining all the exciting changes. :)

Happening Right Now: Check out the hashtag #tobeapartner on Instagram and other social media sites; It’s pretty amazing to see all the positive reactions to these updates. I personally can’t stop keep checking… Everyone is so happy, it makes me happy!

Here’s how the U.S. Dress Code turned out:

View the PDF version

And here is the final version of the Partner Experience, a play on the Starbucks cup boxes:

View the PDF version

About the Designs

I drew all the icons by hand and wrote the captions/headlines with a Sharpie to give that true barista feel to it all. And it was so much fun to work “offline” like this.

Both pieces had a LOT of copy so to make it a bit friendlier and more digestible, we broke away from the grid and used a more free-flowing layout, especially for the Dress Code. (Ironically, though we had no grid/columns to work within for that design, each paragraph became like a puzzle piece in this layout – its size and placement totally depending on the other paragraphs surround it. But all worked out!)


I can’t speak highly enough of the individuals I got to work with and their teams at Starbucks Corporate, for all the time, effort, and thought they poured into this project to make every piece just right. Thank you all, so much for the opportunity! And a huge congratulations to Starbucks partners everywhere on the new wins!!!

Thank you – You (and your work) were AMAZING. I can assure you that I’ll be sending you many referrals. Such a gifted artist and a joy to work with personally as well.

Look forward to hopefully working together again! Kim, Starbucks Coffee Company

We loved working with you on this project! Thank you for helping us bring it to life for our partners.Amy Alcala, vice president of Starbucks Partner Communications & Engagement

See the story (and the artwork featured) in the Media:
Huffington Post
CNN Money
Oregon Live | The Oregonian
USA Today
Seattle Times

Further Reading

The updated Dress Code and Partner Experience Investments were the second and third projects I’ve designed for Starbucks. See the first:
Starbucks Postcard Project: What Fills Your Cup?

Web Designers: Build as if Your Clients will Make Updates

Build every website as if your clients will need to update it themselves someday.


1. Eventually, your clients WILL want to make updates themselves, regardless of what they say in the beginning of your project in terms of maintenance. :) Eventually, they’ll get tired of asking and/or paying you to do it if it’s something they can learn. Or you might even move on from building websites someday, and that’s not your client’s fault! Or you might design sites forever but you could get totally booked by the time a client comes back around for updates. Then what? In any case, as long as a client cares about their business, they WILL want to update their own website. And they should have every right to, when they want to! It’s their website!

2. It will force you to simplify your toolset- find only the essential, most user-friendly plugins, apps, etc. Throughout development, look at every page and every component of a site you’re building and constantly ask yourself with the client in mind: Is there any chance they’ll want to change this later on? If it’s an honest yes, then ask yourself, “how easy would it be for them to do that?” And, “can I make it easier?”

3. Similarly, when the time comes, training clients on updating their website will be easier for both of you because you built it with them in mind. You can’t teach your client to master updating their website if you’re unsure of how to update something yourself. You have to know the ins-and-outs of what you’re doing, master it, then teach it to your client so it’s easy to understand. No more finding the “right” plugins for the job. Find the right solution for the job AND for your client in the future.

4. Most importantly, if you build every site as if your client will update it themselves, you’ll have no choice but to build a scalable, thoughtful website. What good is completely customized, built-from-the-ground-up site that doesn’t scale? Not much after a little time has passed.

Choose the right framework. Do your research. Know what you’re building with so updates are a breeze, and so the growth of your client’s business doesn’t stop at their website; their website scales with their growth.