Carolyn Davidson

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Carolyn Davidson
ResidencePortland, Oregon[1]

Carolyn Davidson is a graphic designer best known for designing the Nike Swoosh logo.


Davidson designed the Swoosh in 1971 while a graphic design student at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. She started as a journalism major but switched to design after taking a design course to "fill an empty elective."[2] She attained a bachelor's in graphic design in 1971.[3] Phil Knight, who was teaching an accounting class at the university, overheard Davidson say that she couldn't afford oil painting supplies and asked her to do some work for what was then Blue Ribbon Sports, Inc. Knight asked Davidson to design a shoe stripe logo that "had something to do with movement". Up until this moment, Davidson was helping Knight as a part time artist making charts and graphs whenever the company needed to meet with executives.[4] She gave him five different designs, one of which was the Swoosh.[5] Needing to choose a logo in order to meet looming production deadlines, Knight settled on the Swoosh after rejecting four other designs by Davidson. At the time, he stated of the logo, "I don't love it, but it will grow on me."[1] For her services, the company paid her $35, which, if adjusted for inflation for 2018, would be the value equivalent of about $217.[6] Davidson continued working for Blue Ribbon Sports (it officially became Nike, Inc. in 1971) until the design demands of the growing company exceeded one person's capacity. In 1976, the company hired its first external advertising agency, John Brown and Partners, and Davidson went on to work on other clients' needs.[1]

In September 1983, nearly three years after the company went public, Knight invited Davidson to a company lunch. There, he presented her with a diamond ring engraved with the Swoosh and an envelope filled with 500 shares of Nike stock (which have since split into 32,000 shares).[7] Of the gift, Davidson says, "this was something rather special for Phil to do, because I originally billed him and he paid that invoice."[1] Davidson went on to be known as "The Logo Lady".[5] In 1995, Nike removed the word "Nike" from the logo; the Swoosh now stands alone as the brand's logo.[8]

Davidson retired in 2000, and now engages in hobbies and volunteer work, including weekly duties at the Ronald McDonald House at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center in Oregon.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Origin of the Swoosh". Nike, Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  2. ^ "Portland State Fearless | Carolyn Davidson: Fearless Icon-Maker". Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Creator of Nike's famed Swoosh remembers its conception 40 years later". Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  5. ^ a b "How a college student created one of sport's most iconic images". ABC News. 2016-06-17. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  6. ^ "Nike gives board seniors the boot". BBC. 2004-08-02. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
  7. ^ Colbert, Stephen (2016-04-28). "EP 131". The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Season 1. Episode 131. CBS. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  8. ^ "The 50 Most Iconic Brand Logos of All Time". Complex. Retrieved 2016-06-26.