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Nike Swoosh
The Swoosh, designed by Carolyn Davidson and used by Nike, Inc.

The Swoosh is the logo of American athletic shoe and apparel designer and retailer Nike. Today, it has become one of the most recognizable brand logos in the world, and the most valuable, having a worth of $26 billion alone.[1][2][3]

Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight founded Nike on January 25, 1964, as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS). Upon changing its name to Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971, the company adopted the Swoosh as its official logo the same year. Carolyn Davidson, a student at Portland State University during the time Knight taught there, created the logo, attempting to convey motion in its design.

The logo has undergone minor changes from its original design in 1971, today most commonly seen as a solo swoosh, although for much of its history, the logo incorporated the NIKE name alongside the Swoosh. Over the years, the orange and white color palette has traditionally been used on the logo, although most recently a solid black swoosh has gained significant popularity.[4]

The Swoosh has appeared alongside the trademark "Just Do It" since 1988. Together, these two make up the core of Nike's brand, and has been the face of the company, with many high-profile athletes and sports teams around the world sporting the logos.[3]


The Nike Swoosh corporate trademark was created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson while she was a graphic design student at Portland State University.[5] It was here that she met Phil Knight, who was at the time teaching accounting classes at the university. Knight had overheard that Davidson was in search of extra funds in order for her to take oil painting classes, so he offered to pay Davidson to do some freelance work for his company, then named Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS). Knight offered to pay Davidson $2 per hour (about $14 per hour today) for the work that she completed.[6]

For seven years after its founding in 1964, BRS primarily imported Onitsuka Tiger brand running shoes from Japan. In 1971, Knight decided to launch his own brand of shoes, which would first appear as cleated shoes for football or soccer, and had a factory in Mexico ready to make the shoes. All Knight needed was a "stripe"—the industry term for a shoe logo—to go with his new brand, so he approached Davidson for design ideas. He had asked Davidson to make sure the stripe conveyed motion and did not look similar to the three stripes of Adidas. Over the ensuing weeks, she created at least a half-dozen marks and gathered them together to present to Knight, Bob Woodell and Jeff Johnson (two BRS executives) at the company's home office, at the time located in Tigard, Oregon.[7][6]

They ultimately selected the mark now known globally as the Swoosh. "I don't love it," Knight told her, "but I think it will grow on me".[8] Once the choice was made, Davidson asked for more time in order to refine the work she had done on the Swoosh; however, Knight stated that the company had production deadlines to meet and needed the logo as soon as possible. For her services, the company paid her $35 ($206 in 2015 dollars), citing that she worked 17.5 hours on creating the Swoosh, although Davidson claims that she is certain she worked more hours on the design.[9][10] In September 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) to express his gratitude.[11] [12] Davidson claims to this day that she is not a millionaire but lives comfortably.[8][12] The Swoosh was officially patented on June 18, 1971 and 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 the athletes sporting the fresh new Swoosh.[13][7]

Design and color[edit]

The logo at the former Highbury Stadium, London.

The swoosh also represents half of a running track. Take the "swoosh" and flip it to create a whole running track. Nike co-founder Phil Knight was adamant that his company's new logo be a simple design that is fluid and conveys motion and speed. The logo is also said to symbolize the wing of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike.[4][7][8]

When first released, the design was displayed in a variety of colors in order to stand out on the track from other shoe manufacturers.[13] Nike primarily used the red and white color palette on its logo for much of its history. The red is meant to exemplify passion, energy, and joy, while the white color represents nobility, charm and purity.[4]

Until 1994, the official Nike corporate logo for Nike featured the name "NIKE" in Futura Bold, all-caps font, cradled within the Swoosh. In 1995, Nike began using the stand-alone Swoosh as its corporate logo as a form of debranding, and continues to use it that way today, while also using a simple black color palette for the Swoosh.[4]

Brand image[edit]

One of the most recognized brand logos in the world, the Swoosh has made Nike one of the most successful brands and most highly valued. The Nike brand alone is valued at $26 billion. Nike spends about 10% of its annual revenue on advertising and promotions. Harvard Business School professor Stephen A. Greyser has described the logo as "the living, vibrant symbol of the firm".[7]

Nike has made great use of the Swoosh logo in athlete endorsements. The endorsements of Romanian tennis player Ilie Năstase and distance runner Steve Prefontaine kicked off Nike's brand sponsorships and today they endorse hundreds of athletes. Nike's endorsements of Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in basketball, Cristiano Ronaldo in soccer, Tiger Woods in golf, and Rafael Nadal in tennis are among the 15 biggest athlete endorsement deals in sports history.

Nike's heritage[edit]

Nike is the winged goddess of victory in Greek mythology, who sat at the side of Zeus in Olympus. Nike is said to have presided over history's earliest battlefields as she flew around rewarding the victors with glory and fame, symbolized by a wreath of leaves. She was often found next to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, who is said to never put up with defeat.

In statues and paintings Nike is represented as a woman with wings dressed in a flowing robe, with a wreath in her outstretched hand. To represent her role as the messenger of victory, she is shown with the staff of Hermes. In Athens, the statue of Nike is portrayed without wings and is called Nike Apteron (Wingless Victory). Nike's wings were removed from the statue so she would not fly away, as the Athenians believed doing so would indicate her permanent stay in the city.[14]


In May 2010, a report was written where Nike copied the Swoosh logo from the cigarette brand Newport. The comparison was made, because Newport was introduced in 1957 and used a logo they call the "spinnaker", while Nike was formed on January 25, 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman and Philip Knight, and officially became Nike, Inc. in 1978. The Nike swoosh is a logo design created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, over a decade after Newport cigarettes were launched.

Despite some claims, there has never been found any specific evidence that Nike stole the logo from Newport.[15][16]

In 2006, Lorillard (the previous owner of Newport) and Nike sued graphic designer Ari Saal Forman after he released his Ari Menthol 10s shoes, which combined the design of the Nike Air Force 1 with Newport's spinnaker and colors. According to Forman, the shoes were "dedicated to the two brands who have taken the most and given the least." As a result of the lawsuit, Forman is not legally allowed to own a pair of Menthol 10s.[17][18]


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  2. ^ "Nike Canada FAQ page". Archived from the original on 2014-12-06.
  3. ^ a b "The Forbes Fab 40: The World's Most Valuable Sports Brands 2015". Forbes. 2015-10-22.
  4. ^ a b c d "Nike Logo". Famous Logos.
  5. ^ "Nike Logo History". Nike Air Max UK. 2017-09-25.
  6. ^ a b "The $35 Nike Logo and the Woman Who Designed It". Creative Market. 2015-08-21.
  7. ^ a b c d "Creator of Nike's famed Swoosh remembers its conception 40 years later". OregonLive. 2011-06-15.
  8. ^ a b c "The Creator of the Nike "Swoosh" Logo Was Originally Paid Only $35 for the Design". Today I Found Out. 2013-06-27.
  9. ^ "Nike gives board seniors the boot". BBC. 2004-08-02. Archived from the original on May 3, 2012. Retrieved 2009-06-28.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  10. ^ "'I never get tired of looking at it': Woman who designed Nike's swoosh explains how chance encounter with Phil Knight led to its inception 40 YEARS ago". Daily Mail. 2011-06-16.
  11. ^ Colbert, Stephen (2016-04-28). "EP 131". The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Season 1. Episode 131. CBS. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  12. ^ a b "Nikebiz : About Nike : Heritage : Origin of the Swoosh". Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2012-04-08.
  13. ^ a b "How Nike Turned Running Shoes Into Fashion". The Atlantic. 2015-07-06.
  14. ^ "Myth Man's Nike, Goddess of Victory". variousgods.com. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  15. ^ "Nike Swoosh Logo vs Newport Cigarettes Swoosh Logo - The Logo Smith". 9 May 2010.
  16. ^ "Nike and Newport (Swoosh and Spinnaker) - BEACH". 25 November 2011.
  17. ^ "The Bootleg Nikes That Got Banned by Big Tobacco". Vice Media. October 20, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  18. ^ "Ari Saal Forman Explains Why the Menthol 10s Were Banned by Big Tobacco". Wear Testers. October 19, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.