The Nike Swoosh. No doubt one of the most recognizable logos in the world. It’s easy to think that a logo so iconic would’ve been designed by a top advertising agency, with a team of talented graphic designers behind it - who must’ve spent countless hours designing it, and paid millions of dollars upon its completion.
In reality, the popular logo was designed in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University. Her then assistant professor, Phil Knight, had co-founded a company named Blue Ribbon Sports, which would later be named, Nike. Pressed by a tight deadline for a new line of athletic shoes, Knight reached out to Davidson to help him come up with an image that could go on the side of the shoe.
After some thought, Davidson came up with the Nike Swoosh. A check mark shape that is fluid, and indicates movement and speed. Her design also resembles a wing, because ‘Nike’, is named after the ancient Greek Goddess of victory.
Though Knight was not initially satisfied with her work, his budget did not allow him to develop another logo, so he went ahead and proceeded with the logo Davidson submitted, and paid her $35 for her work ($2 / hour).
Nike now has become one of the most famous sports brands of all time, and the Swoosh Davidson designed has since been cemented in pop culture. It’s amazing to think that a simple side hustle from a graphic design student revolutionized a brand. This goes to show no matter how big or how small an opportunity, it has the potential to turn into something great.
Davidson continued to design for Nike up until 1975, and went on to found her own advertising agency in 1976. In 1983, Knight honored his former student and regarded her as one of the key minds of Nike, giving her a diamond Swoosh ring, and company shares, estimated to be more than a million dollars worth today.
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