Nike Logo History – Where Did The Swoosh Come From?
The Nike swoosh is one of the most iconic logo designs of all time, recently voted 9th most recognisable logo on the planet, it is worn by some of the sporting world’s most notable players and champions. You’d think it was created by a global brand design agency – but it wasn’t, keep watching to find out about the real brand story behind the Nike Swoosh.
In this video, I go over the Nike logo history, explain what makes the logo so iconic and what you can take away from it to use for your business.
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The Nike swish voted the ninth, most recognizable logo on the planet and a staple in the sports industry. But where did that logo come from? How has it developed and what can you take from that process to use in your business? Keep watching to find out.
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Nike swish being so well-known and recognizable. You might think that it had come from some global design agency. When in fact it came from a student called Carolyn Davidson. So in 1971, Carolyn was studying at the Portland state university. And it was there that she met Phil Knight, who was the owner of a company called Blue Ribbon Sports, which would later become Nike.
Now Phil Knight was teaching accountancy classes at the same university and under Blue Ribbon Sports. What he’d been doing was importing Japanese running shoes and selling them to the U S market. But he decided that he wanted to create his own brand of running shoes. And therefore, when he met Carolyn, he, he asked her if she could create a logo or what he called a Stripe, which is the name that was used for logos on running shoes at the time.
And he gave her a few pointers, a sort of a loose brief, and this was the Stripe or the logo had to be different to Adidas, but it had to inspire a movement. Now, Carolyn went away and did multiple designs. And after presenting those to Phil Knight, he ended up choosing the infamous swish stating. I don’t love it, but I think it’ll grow on me.
It was trademarked in June, 1971, and it was first used on the Nike football boots, the original football boots. It was used a year later, on the Nike Cortez running shoe. And that was debuted at the U S track and field Olympic trials. Initially, Carolyn wasn’t paid much for the design of the logo, by, today’s standards and even at their standards then, but in 1983, she was invited to an event in her honor, and she got given a Nike Swoosh diamond ring and given shares in the company that valued up to a million.
So why is the Nike logo so distinctive?
The beauty of the Swoosh is it’s simple is distinctive, it’s memorable. And it differentiates from the competition, especially at the time. And this is down to Phil Knight’s brief. So he wanted to inspire a movement, but he also wanted to be completely different to Adidas now a lot of brands at the time would have been trying to emulate, Adidas and copy them.
Whereas he decided he wanted to be completely different in order to run with them, to fight against them, to position himself as something different. To the Adidas brand. And this brief helped Carolyn to take it away from the way that the Adidas brand looked and created this swoosh, that inspired movement and that gives you that feeling of empowerment.
The color palette was also kept really simple. So initially it was red on white and obviously modern day times now it’s kind of, it’s either white on black or black on white. You very rarely get to see any other colors involved. Occasionally you might see a bright background with a white or black swoosh on it, but initially red and white with the colors.
And it was very simple, very clean, and it just focused on that. Mark, the shape of the swish actually comes from the Greek goddess of victory and she was called Nike where the company gets their name from.
In Greece, before they were going into battle, they would pray to Nike and they were chanting her name and it was supposed to give them empowerment and give them energy and movement.
So it’s a great name for the brand, but the Swoosh is actually modeled on her wings.
Now because the Nike swoosh is so simple and iconic, there is no unnecessary flourishes added or anything that could have been added. That was a trend at the time the brand was created. What that means is that this Mark is timeless.
It’s something that you could see. It feels as fresh today as it could be in the future. And that’s because it’s so simple.
Comment below with a yes. If you’re a fan of the Nike logo and if not, what are some of your favorite logos and the ones that you feel are the most iconic?
What can you take away from the Nike swoosh that you can use with your brand today?
Well, the first thing is to focus on simplicity. The reason the Nike swoosh is so iconic and memorable, is it simple, similar to the Apple logo these logos, they burn themselves into your mind with their simplicity. There’s no confusion.
There’s no added extra flourishes. They are there as a marker for that brand. they’re a shortcut, they’re like your face is a shortcut to everything you stand for, your personality, the memory somebody has with you, the experiences they have with you, your face is a trigger for that.
The Nike logo is a trigger is a marker for that brand. It is letting you know that you can identify that brand based on that Mark.
And that is what a good logo an iconic logo will do. So focus on simplicity. Don’t get bogged down in trends. It can be easy to do this, but what you want to do is strip that all away.
There’s a great quote that says great design. Is not about when you can no longer add anything. It’s when you can no longer take anything away.
The second thing you can learn from the Nike swoosh is to think about the future. So this goes hand-in-hand with simplicity, but the more simple you are, the less flourishes you add, the less trends you piggyback on at the moment. The more, this logo will be future-proofed and you won’t have to change it down the line.
So focus on something simple. It wants to be distinctive. It wants to be appropriate with your brand, and it wants to be something that is future proofed.
The third thing you can learn from the Nike swish is about positioning. So when Phil Knight asked Carolyn to design the logo, he asked her to differentiate from the Adidas brand.
So does your logo do that with your market, with your competition? Does it make you stand out from that competition? Does it differentiate you, does it do something different? Does it look different? Does it feel different? How can you change it up so that it stands out from that competition.
And lastly, aim to resonate with your audience and make them feel something again from Phil Knight’s brief, he wanted to inspire a movement.
And the Nike Tick certainly does that it inspires, empowers. It makes you feel. And when it was paired with the tagline later on, just do it. It was a perfect match, and that logo really encompasses that. So can you do that for your brand? What can your logo say? What can it do to your audience? What can it do to make them feel something, articulate something about what your brand stands for?
So now you have a bit more of an idea about how to replicate or use what the Nike swoosh did in terms of building an iconic, memorable, and distinctive logo. If you’re looking to dive deeper into developing your brand, we actually have an online course, which is for business owners and founders of existing brands, looking to take it to the next level and start ups looking to develop a brand.