Carolyn Davidson

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Carolyn Davidson
Alma materPortland State University
OccupationGraphic designer

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 offered Davidson a job in creating charts and graphs for his meetings with Japanese footwear executives. Her success with this work led to Davidson designing posters, ads, and flyers for the company.[4] In 1971, Knight and his co-founder needed a logo for a new line of running shoes they were getting ready to introduce. They asked Davidson to design a stripe (industry term for a shoe logo) that "had something to do with movement". Davidson worked on her ideas by drawing on a piece of tissue over a drawing of a shoe.[5] She gave him five different designs, one of which was the Swoosh[6] which resembles a wing and hints at Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.[7] 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."[8] For her services, the company paid her $35, which, if adjusted for inflation for 2018, would be the value equivalent of about $217.[9] Davidson continued working for Blue Ribbon Sports (it officially became Nike, Inc. in 1972) 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.[8]

In September 1983, nearly three years after the company went public, Knight invited Davidson to a company reception. There, he presented her with chocolate swooshes, a diamond ring made of gold and engraved with the Swoosh, and an envelope filled with 500 shares (estimated to be worth $1,000,000 as of 2015)[7] of Nike stock that has split into 32,000 shares as of 2016.[10] Of the gift, Davidson says, "this was something rather special for Phil to do, because I originally billed him and he paid that invoice."[8] Davidson went on to be known as "The Logo Lady".[6] In 1995, Nike removed the word "Nike" from the logo; the Swoosh now stands alone as the brand's logo.[11]

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.[8]


  1. ^ "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. ^ Oregonian/OregonLive, Allan Brettman The. "Creator of Nike's famed Swoosh remembers its conception 40 years later".
  4. ^ Umoh, Ruth (2018-09-05). "Here's how much Nike's billionaire founder paid for its swoosh logo". Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  5. ^ Brettman, Allan (2011-06-16). "Creator of Nike's famed Swoosh remembers its conception 40 years later". Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  6. ^ a b "How a college student created one of sport's most iconic images". ABC News. 2016-06-17. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  7. ^ a b Market, Creative (2015-08-21). "The $35 Nike Logo and the Woman Who Designed It". Creative Market. Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  8. ^ a b c d "Origin of the Swoosh". Nike, Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  9. ^ "Nike gives board seniors the boot". BBC. 2004-08-02. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
  10. ^ Colbert, Stephen (2016-04-28). "EP 131". The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Season 1. Episode 131. CBS. Archived from the original on 2016-10-11. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  11. ^ "The 50 Most Iconic Brand Logos of All Time". Complex. Retrieved 2016-06-26.