The wing shape, which represents the Nike company, is very illustrative and need no further commentary. It is known to everyone. It’s hard to imagine that before the Nike logo did not exist at all. Since 1963, when amateur runner Phil Knight took the first steps towards creating a future empire, it took 8 years to create a Nike logo. Probably the student, who sells Japanese sneakers from the trunk of his car, did not realize that one day his small-scale company would become one of the brightest sports brands in the world.
The beginning of a journey
Phil’s choice was not random. The young man was very sporty. He improved his skills and was interested in new sports products. At that time, the affordable sports shoe shortage was an important problem for him and for other people. The place on the market was occupied by expensive foreign brands like Adidas, or cheap and uncomfortable shoes. Knight was seriously looking for alternatives and he turned his attention to Japan without hesitation. He was interested in the industry of this country while studying at the university. His idea was to supply cheap Japanese sneakers to the United States, and it would be available to a wide audience.
Phil Knight went to Japan in 1962 and made an agreement with a local firm, and a year later he sold the first batch in his home country. At that time, his business was called Blue Ribbon Sports. The entrepreneur did not think too much about this name. At first, Knight advertised shoes to familiar sportsmen, but soon the wave of interest in his products began to grow. The good profits and positive feedback raised the issue of their own production. The growing social trend for a healthy lifestyle served as an additional argument in favor of this opportunity. However, Phil needed a more concise name to establish a new company, as well as a memorable logo.
The birth of the Swoosh
The name Nike came to Knight’s colleague Jeff Johnson, who saw Greek goddess Nike in a dream. Her image was one of the reference points for creating a logo. Knight met with designer Carolyn Davidson (the future creator of the legendary logo) when he studied at Portland University.
He looked to her for help from time to time, when he just started a business, and in 1971 he assigned a more important mission to the student. Phil wanted her to create a company logo and gave the demands for the logo: dynamism, good visual perception on shoes and difference from other well-known brands.
The wing shape was not the first Davidson idea. She created several sketches at once. According to legend, the designer angrily drew a line on a piece of paper, being dissatisfied with her work ideas. And as a result, the Swoosh was invented. One way or another, but the shareholders chose this particular sign as a logo. Phil Knight was dismissive of that logo; he said that isn’t what he dreams about. Carolyn Davidson was paid only 35 dollars for her work.
The founder of the Nike company could not even think about that, over the years, he will get a tattoo with a symbol that really put him on the map. The Nike logo designer received a precious ring with the Swoosh as a reward, as well as 500 company shares, it was a huge, albeit belated, award. The exact shares amount is still unknown, but today it exceeds one million dollars. Remembering this story, company fans often joke that freelancers should not be afraid of low-paying orders. No one ever really knows how things are going to turn out.
The newly appeared symbol was interpreted differently. According to Carolyn Davidson herself, the line depicts the goddess Nike wing, who gave the brand a name. Nike symbolized the victory in ancient Greece and patronized the athletes. Shareholders initially interpreted the logo as a ribbon. However, the company was founded to produce sneakers, which means that the goal was to link the logo with speed and energy.
The Swoosh, which is now known to the whole world, transmits sound at high speed (like the whistle of the wind). It is a symbol of eternal and continuous movement. At the same time, the wing shape was designed to stimulate athletes to action, and achievements, like the slogan “Just do it” that appeared later. Nike is one of the few companies where the logo has its own, unique name that is not associated with anything else.
Next step forward for symbol
Despite the fact that shoes with this logo went on sale almost immediately after its creation, the symbol officially became a trademark only in 1995. Simple and concise Swoosh has proven to be one of the most persistent logos in history. It has remained almost unchanged for decades with some minor modifications. Initially, the wing shape had a black outline and internal transparency, and the name Nike was written over the smooth handwritten lettering. After 7 years, the logo was finalized: the Swoosh changed its bend a little, was slightly blurred and turned black. The inscription Nike was placed above the image, and its font became more restrained and symmetrical.
The logo has undergone only minor revisions. In a few more years, the font and symbol slightly stretched out. Designers used white on a black background. And the main event in the history of the Nike logo happened in 1995. The inscription Nike was lost and only the wing shape left. By that time, the emblem had become so popular and recognizable that there was no longer a need for the company name. That continues to be the Nike logo today. Anyone who sees the famous Swoosh on sportswear and footwear will recognize the associated brand.
Nike logo today
Nike still gained the title of sports brand number 1 in the world, despite the fact that the company did not manage to beat Adidas in popularity among football players. Today, the Swoosh is considered the most recognizable logo among buyers and athletes. It can be seen not only on sneakers but also on shorts, T-shirts, jackets, caps and sports equipment. From time to time, the company holds promotions, releasing products with various words and abbreviations over the Swoosh, where the inscription Nike was located before. At the same time, the traditional font remains.
The logo was liked by many sports stars. The brand cooperates with them to this day. Athletes win prizes and set new world records wearing Nike clothes and shoes. Celebrities choose Nike, and this increases loyalty and trust among customers who instantly recognize the wing shape. Swoosh history is proof that even the simplest and most uncomplicated image can gain world fame and recognition.
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Blog editor and content marketing specialist at Turbologo. Writing about Marketing and design. Victoria’s articles contain useful tips on how to build a brand and promote it online.