nike logo history

A Trip Down the Memory Lane: History and Evolution of Nike’s Iconic Logo

Take a closer look at the most popular brand logos in the world and you will find a few common traits.

Whether it is McDonald’s golden arches or Apple’s bitten apple or Nike’s black swoosh, they all are simple, memorable, versatile and distinct.

All these logos convey a message and have a hidden meaning that most people tend to ignore.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the famous black swoosh? Nike, right. Thanks to its simple yet effective logo design, most people recognize Nike from its logo. That’s how famous Nike logo really is.

Just like every other great logo, it also has a fascinating story attached to it. Are you excited to hear that story? If yes, then you are in the right place. In this article, you will learn about Nike logo’s history and its evolution over time.

History of Nike Logo

Phil Knight, who is the co-founder of Nike, used to work as an assistant professor of accounting at Portland State University and worked for Blue Ribbon Sports too. Carolyn Davidson, who carved her name in history books by creating one of the most famous logos in the world, was a student of graphic design in the same University at the time.

Carolyn was sitting in the hall of Portland State University and was talking about the financial crisis she was experiencing. She showed disdain on not having enough money to take up an oil painting class. Phil Knight heard it and offered her a freelance job at Blue Ribbon Sports.

She was required to create charts and brochures and in return, she would get $2 per hour wage. She gleefully accepted the offer but unfortunately for her, Phil Knight has a fallout with folks at Blue Ribbon Sports, so he decided to leave the company and start his own business. He launched his own shoe brand which would make shoes for footballers.

Knight asked Carolyn to design a logo for his new brand. She was told to design a logo that can be easily placed on a shoe. So she started sketching designs on napkins and placed those designs on shoe drawing to see how they looked.

Phil Knight, Jeff Johnson and Bob Woodellwerenot impressed by the initial designs. Phil Knight said, “I don’t love it but it think it will grow on me.” She was disappointed from such a response and went back to the drawing board started refining her designs. Finally, she succeeded in coming up with a design that Phil and his team liked and became Nike logo designer. It took her a little over 17 hours to create this iconic logo.

Did you know how much money did she got for creating this logo?


Yes, you read that right, $35.

A decade later, Nike acknowledged Carolyn’s contribution towards their brand identity and awarded her with a ring decorated with diamonds along with an envelope that contained 500 shares of Nike at a special ceremony organized to pay tribute to her.                         

Evolution of Nike Logo

Nike symbol swoosh first appeared on the scene in June 1971 when the company patented the it with the US Patent Office. Initially, there was only a swoosh, but later Carolyn added the brand name “Nike” in Futura bold font.

In 1985, Nike put their logo on a red square. The logo was in white color with both swoosh and word “Nike”. Thankfully, it helped Nike to win endorsements from athletes. To appeal to more athletes, Nike decided to create a slogan, which ended up being “Just Do It.” Ironically, Nike’s slogan is derived from the last words of a murderer Gary Gilmore who said, “Let’s do it before his execution.

Soon after the year 1995, the word “Nike” was eliminated from the logo, leaving the swoosh behind. There was also a time when Nike changed the color of the swoosh from black to red. The Red color is a symbol of passion, energy, and excitement while the white color represents nobility, purity, and peace. Later, Nike decided to give their logo a more classy look so they reverted to the black color.

What makes Nike’s logo special in your opinion? Have your say in the comments section below.

Muneeb Siddiqui

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