The 2016 Executive Excellence Awards: Arthur Rubinfeld

Chief Creative Officer, Starbucks

January 28, 2016

Gianni Truzzi

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When Howard Schultz returned to the helm of Starbucks in 2008 to reverse the companys flagging fortunes, he persuaded Arthur Rubinfeld, a close friend, to return as chief creative officer.

Rubinfeld had led Starbucks real estate and design division in its early years, developing a strategy based on traffic patterns and demographics that drove its rapid growth. During his absence, however, the companys stores had lost their distinctiveness. Rubinfeld helped rebuild the brand by closing the weakest stores and developing a new design ethic around sustainability. We chose a palette of metal, glass, wood, recyclables and other organic materials, says Rubinfeld. Our business is based on an agrarian product, so its about earth and being organic. Sustainability is part of who we are, so there is no forcing of design.

Under Rubinfeld, Starbucks has become a global leader in sustainable design/build efforts with 700 LEED-certified stores completed and 500 more planned for 2016. Rubinfeld has established 18 global design offices that incorporate regional design and craftsmanship into local stores.

An architect and environmental designer, Rubinfeld takes pride in creating a sixth sense that ease visitors feel when they enter a well-designed cafe like the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room on Capitol Hill in Seattle.