The Nike Swoosh is one of the most recognized brand logos in the world, with an estimated value of $26 billion. The history of the Nike Swoosh is intertwined with the history of Nike itself.
Nike was founded by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight on January 25, 1964, as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS).
The company changed its name to Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971, and adopted the Swoosh as its official logo the same year. The logo was created by Carolyn Davidson, a student at Portland State University where Phil Knight was teaching at the time. The design of the Swoosh was intended to convey motion.
The Swoosh design was chosen from multiple options Davidson presented to Knight. The final design was inspired by the wings of the Greek goddess Nike. Davidson asked for more time to refine the Swoosh, but Knight needed the logo as soon as possible to meet production deadlines. For her work, Davidson was paid $35, a sum based on the 17.5 hours she claimed to have worked on the design, though she believes she spent more time on it.
The Swoosh was officially trademarked on June 18, 1971. In June 1972, at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Nike’s first official track shoe, the Nike Cortez, was released to athletes sporting the new Swoosh.
Davidson continued working for the company (which officially became Nike, Inc. in 1972) until the design demands of the growing company exceeded her capacity. In 1983, Knight gave Davidson a golden Swoosh ring with an embedded diamond and 500 shares of Nike stock (which have since split into 32,000 shares) as a token of his gratitude.
The logo was initially displayed in a variety of colors to stand out on the track from other shoe manufacturers. Nike primarily used a red and white color palette on its logo for much of its history. The red symbolizes passion, energy, and joy, while the white represents nobility, charm, and purity.
Until 1994, the official Nike corporate logo featured the name “NIKE” in Futura Bold, all-caps font, cradled within the Swoosh. Over the years, the logo has undergone minor changes from its original design in 1971. Today, it is most commonly seen as a solo swoosh. The logo has traditionally used an orange and white color palette, although a solid black swoosh has gained significant popularity in recent years.
Since 1988, the Swoosh has appeared alongside the trademark “Just Do It.” These two elements form the core of Nike’s brand and have been the face of the company, with many high-profile athletes and sports teams around the world sporting the logos. Nike has effectively used the Swoosh logo in athlete endorsements, with notable athletes such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, and Cristiano Ronaldo among those who have been associated with the brand.