The Nike's Swoosh Logo History

One of the most famous logos in the history of Design is definitely Nike's Swoosh. But did you know that this iconic logo only cost $35 to the company in 1971? On the contrary to what many might think, this recognizable brand identity was not designed by a major branding firm but rather by a graphic design student named Carolyn Davidson and she only charged 35 dollars for the historical piece of work. Ready to take a look at the Nike logo design history? Let's go!

Image 1. Current logo used by Nike - Swoosh Logo History

Image 1. Current logo used by Nike

How did Carolyn Davidson land the job?

When Carolyn Davidson was still a Design Student at the Portland State University she met Phil Knight, an accounting instructor at PSU who would go on to be the founder of Nike, at the time called Blue Ribbon Sports. Back then, knowing that Davidson was searching for extra funds for oil painting classes, Knight asked her to help him out with other projects at a rate of $2 an hour.

Initially, Knight just wanted an image or a stripe that could fit on the side of the shoes. Working a total of 17,5 hours on the project, Carolyn created the famous mark that was named after the Greek goddess of Victory. She took inspiration from the wingspan and flight Niké was known for in greek mythology which resulted in a checkmark built with crafted curved lines that easily evoke the shape of a wing. The fluidity of the mark represents movement and speed, values that are often appreciated in every sport.

Image 2. Sketch of the Nike logo by Carolyn Davidson - Swoosh Logo History

Image 2. Original Swoosh by Carolyn Davidson

How did the Nike Logo become the iconic "Swoosh"?

After presenting six variations of the new mark to Knight and other executives, they opted for the curved checkmark with the word "Nike" in a hand-scripted font as the final version of the logo. At the time, Knight was not fully convinced with the design but that quickly changed and the logo officially became the trademark of Nike in June of 1971. The logo received the name "Swoosh" after the "woosh" sound made by the shoes when running. Since then, Nike has become one of the most famous shoe brands of all time.

Image 3. The chosen version of the Nike's logo - Swoosh Logo History

Image 3. The Nike logo version that was chosen.

Carolyn Davidson after "Swoosh"

After creating the iconic logo of Nike, Phil Knight offered Carolyn a job, and she continued to work for the company until 1975. After that, Davidson graduated from college and decided to start working as a freelance designer, which she continued to do for about 30 years.

Image 4. Carolyn Davidson next to the iconic logo - Swoosh Logo History

Image 4. Carolyn Davidson next to the iconic logo.

Big Pay Off

After designing the iconic logo, Davidson didn't receive a fair profit right away. It wasn't until 1983 that the designer was honoured as one of the key minds of the company by Phil Knight, and that a surprise party was thrown in her honour. Besides receiving a Swoosh-shaped gold and diamond ring at this party, she also received 500 shares of the company that all the while were evaluated at $18,000. At the time, this was an unbelievable amount of money received for a logo design, and later Carolyn had more than 8000 shares of the company, which are now evaluated at around half a million dollars.

Besides giving her recognition, the success behind Nike's logo landed Davidson a job for 4 years and much more work as a freelance designer.

Image 5. The ring that was offered to Carolyn - Swoosh Logo History

Image 5. The ring that was offered to Carolyn.

What can we learn?

The Nike logo history is just inspiring and can easily show us how small jobs can actually pay off in big ways. Although initially the simple design was not appreciated by many, it ended up throwing attention from people and it was later adored by everyone. Like Michael Raisch, a senior designer of NFL says, the Nike logo has a simplicity and boldness that brands crave: “It was aerodynamic in its shape, gesture, and boldness,” he says. “It is absolutely effective and so tidy and clean. I think that is what is so effective about it, and it survived the ages.”

Now that you know all the history behind the famous "Swoosh", reading about the Gestalt Theory will definitely help you to understand why is this simple mark so effective. See you soon!

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