In the beginning, the assignment was limited in scope: Could Emily Alexander design a new lid for just one beverage to be used in just one store?
Alexander, an engineer in Global Research & Development at Starbucks, and her team set to work drawing up plans for a strawless lid that would showcase Starbucks’ Draft Nitro and its trademark cold foam that was being served at a Reserve store in Seattle.
For several weeks in 2016, Alexander would grab any available pen and a sheet of used printer paper when inspiration struck. She sketched and she sketched, working with a supplier in Wisconsin to conjure up complex designs including a two-piece twist-lock lid and a pull-tab lid that went nowhere (too busy). The versions that seemed most promising allowed customers to exult in the frothy foam, which Alexander calls “the hero of Nitro coffee.” Those anointed designs were then made into prototypes and shared with leadership, who would sit around, sip creamy foam through the lids and analyze their aesthetic. Ultimately, what emerged was a design that featured a teardrop-shaped opening about the size of a thumbprint — a cleaner, less-ridged version of a hot cup lid.