The Nike logo is 40 years old


August 18th, 2011 by in Articles, Design news

Fourty years ago, Nike started its long history of exploiting people by underpaying its logo designer. Carolyn Davidson was paid $38 for this design, not thinking one second that it would become one of the most recognized brands in the world.

Read more about the Nike logo’s history on Steven Heller’s article on PrintMag.

Funny how 40 years swoosh by: June 1971 is the date the Nike Swoosh was launched. Designed by Carolyn Davidson for $35 – a “Bargain Brand,” the Dept. of Nike Archives notes in its extraordinarily understated tabloid-sized newsprint history of the mark (produced for the “benefit of Nike employees”). What others might take an entire book (and many trees) to convey – explaining the origin and history of the Swoosh logo – the “DNA” accomplished in a mere 28 pages.

Included are commentaries by designers and design critics, former employees and recollections by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) that evolved into Nike.

The origin of the mark goes like this: Knight wanted to differentiate BRS’s custom product from the ones they were importing from Onituska in Japan: “…so Knight turned to a graphic design student he met at Portland State University two years earlier.” One day in 1969, the student, Carolyn Davidson, was approached by Knight and offered $2 per hour “to make charts and graphics” for his business. For the next two years Davidson managed the design work on BRS. “Then one day Phil asked me if I wanted to work on a shoe stripe,” Davidson recalled. The only advice she received was to “Make the stripe supportive of the shoe.” Davidson came up with half a dozen options. None of the options “captivated anyone” so it came down to “which was the least awful.”

Well, the rest is history. And the Swoosh emerged from “the stripe” and is one of the most recognized logos in the world.

Nike Swoosh Sketch

Nike Swoosh Sketch

Nike Shoe Stripe

Nike Policing the Swoosh

Nike Swoosh Guideline

Nike Swoosh Sunburst

Read more: Swoosh: 40 Years Fly By — Imprint-The Online Community for Graphic Designers
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