When it comes to coding a WordPress theme, there are, without a doubt, plenty of starting points. While duplicating and editing the Classic theme is one of the most popular options, starting from a blank theme or a framework are much more efficient options.
Whiteboard by Brian Purkiss is a light framework with a very minimal CSS reset. It includes all the necessary page templates (index, page, single, sidebar, search, 404, etc) and has no styling whatsoever, which makes it my go-to framework when designing a new theme.
Starkers by Elliot Jay Stocks is another great option. It uses a YUI-based CSS reset and like Whiteboard, contains no out-of-the-box styling. Starkers includes a few more page templates, which is great for very meticulous themes, but can be a bit bloated for very simple themes.
Both Whiteboard and Starkers are both great places to start a WordPress theme, although I typically use Whiteboard for it’s extremely basic structure. Either way, you can’t go wrong and creating a theme will only be made that much easier.