Nike is a manufacturer and retailer of athletic shoes, apparel, and sports equipment. Founded in 1964, Blue Ribbon Sports was a distributor of Onitsuka Tiger shoes. Their first retail store opened in 1966. However, in 1971, the company name changed to Nike after the Greek goddess of victory. That same year, the Nike logo, the Swoosh came to be, and they started making their own shoes. By 1980, the brand had a 50% share of the United States athletic shoe market.
The the original Nike logo designer was Portland State University student, Carolyn Davidson. The company used the iconic mark to help develop their brand identity. A detailed discussion of the development of the Nike logo, its design elements, and how Nike used it to help grow their brand follow is this article.
Nike Logo Design Elements
The Nike Swoosh resembles a check mark with curves instead of sharp angles. The logo’s color is usually red. It has become so recognizable that it no longer has or needs the brand’s name with it.
Changes and Evolution
The shape of the Nike Swoosh suggests energy and motion. It symbolizes the active lifestyle message that brand associated with their products. The Nike logo is a simple design, but quickly and easily identified by consumers. They did not place the design on a label hidden away on their products. Instead, they made sure it was always in prominent places on their products so everyone could see that Nike was the choice of both amateur and professional athletes.
However, the company was not afraid to have controversy surrounding the use of celebrities and their logo. That went from paying Michael Jordan’s NBA fines for wearing Nike shoes with the logo displayed to using Tiger Woods in the midst of his affair scandal. It kept their swoosh in public view and grew their brand influence. In addition, they sponsor athletic events, and just make the Nike symbol visible on apparel, banners, and ads. Their trademark Nike Swoosh is the only shape they need to get public recognition.
Briefly, the Nike logo was placed in a square in 1985, but by 1995, it stood alone again.
The Nike logo is red and/or white. Red is for passion, energy, and joy. White is for nobility, charm, and purity. The Nike Swoosh was originally white and momentarily designed on a red square background in 1985. However, by 1995, the stand-alone Swoosh changed to red. Changing the logo to red made it bolder and more energetic. Thus, the Nike logo meaning changed into something to suggest an active life.
The original 1971 logo had the word “Nike” in a cursive font over the top of the Swoosh. By 1978, the word “Nike” in a slightly slanted, all-caps Futura Bold font was above the sign. The Nike font, similar to Futura, has no extra lines or serifs. It implies forwardness and efficiency. By 1995, the Swoosh itself became enough to provide brand recognition. Therefore, the text disappeared altogether, giving the Nike logo a stronger edge and impact.
The Nike swoosh meaning symbolizes the movement of the wings of the Greek Goddess, Nike. While creating it, Carolyn Davidson had to create a logo to compete with the Adidas logo with three lines growing larger at an angle. She kept the idea of an angle which creates the feeling of motion and energy. However, she instead made it one continuous line of motion giving it a sense of more energy.
It was a perfect choice to convey the message that Nike has promoted for decades and their support for an active lifestyle. The brand has used their logo so well that it is almost synonymous with athleticism. It is a lesson in logo design and usage that is beneficial to any company.
1. Phil Knight found the brand, a University of Oregon track athlete, and his coach, Bill Bowerman. For two years, until they opened their first store, they sold shoes at track meets out of the back of Knight’s car.
2. Designer, Carolyn Davidson, took over 17 hours to create the Swoosh logo.
3. The first Nike brand ad appeared in 1977. It did not feature any merchandise and was called “There is No Finish Line.”
4. Dan Wieden, of the Wieden+Kennedy ad agency, created the Nike slogan, “Just Do It,” in 1988. He used the last words of the convicted killer, Gary Gilmore, as an inspiration. The man’s departing phrase “Let’s do it.” became the main source of the company’s catchy motto. The first “Just Do It” ad featured 80-year old Walt Stack, a San Francisco marathon, and ultra-marathon runner, who, even at 80, was running more marathons than most of his peers.
The Nike logo is a simple design, used so well by the brand that it became immediately recognizable by the public. In fact, it’s now a near synonym with the brand messaging, which is athletics and energy. It is one of the most successful logos of all time, one that has marked its place in history. Without a doubt, it has helped Nike become a global success.