Never Done Leaving a Mark
Department of Nike Archives
As we celebrate 50 years of Nike's iconic logo, we look back at how it came to be—and how it wasn't initially seen as the home run you might expect.
If you're like most people, when you hear Nike, it immediately brings to mind an image of the classic Swoosh. As one of the world's most well-known logos, it has come to hold so much meaning: a symbol of performance and principle, innovation and irreverence, creativity and change.
It has been illustrated and 3D'd. Shaved into haircuts and tattooed onto bodies. It was artistically remixed by the late, great Virgil Abloh in so many brilliant ways—even breaking traditional brand guidelines to add a misshapen painted version to the Off-White Zoom Tempo Solar Red. Many other leading lights of fashion, music, sport and culture have played with it in collaborations with the brand.
And so it would be fair to assume that it originally took weeks, maybe months, to dream up such an icon, with teams of heralded designers concepting and iterating through rounds and rounds of detail and debate.
The reality was very different.
Loosely briefed by the brand's co-founder Phil Knight, the task fell into the hands of Portland State University graphic design student Carolyn Davidson. With a short turnaround time in order to meet production deadlines, feedback was fast, direct and not entirely enthusiastic.
She arrived at the small, nondescript Oregon conference room that history would be made in with a variety of versions, including one that was simply a circle or hole (depending on your point of view). Having rejected four other potential options, the Swoosh was more reluctantly settled on than it was resoundingly celebrated. Knight's initial hesitant reaction to it is now infamous.
"Well, I don't love it. But it will grow on me".
And so the mark—at the time actually named 'the stripe', which Carolyn still calls it to this day—was flown off to Guadalajara in Mexico to set manufacturing in motion. The urgency of getting it there on time was so great that the team sent it over without tidying it up after the meeting, a hand-drawn version proving to be enough for the shoes to go into production.
The rest, as they say, and as we have now all seen, was history. The Swoosh went on to become a cultural icon, with Davidson's weeks of drawing designs on tissue paper producing something greater than any in attendance could have ever imagined.
The film above uncovers even more of what you don't know about the symbol that everyone has come to know. As for what's next in the lineage of the legendary logo—that's up to you. But keep an eye out on Nike's Instagram channels to see where some familiar faces are taking it to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
Featured Stars: A'ja Wilson, Ada Hegerberg, Bebe Vio, Chen Ye, Chloe Kim, Dina Asher-Smith, Dirk Nowitzki, Dylan Alcott, Faith Kipyegon, Feng Chen Wang, G-Dragon, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mia Hamm, Oksana Masters, Quinn, Ricardo Pepi, Ronaldinho, Sabrina Ionescu, Sophie Hahn, Virgil Abloh, Wang Shuang, Yoon Ahn and Yuto Horigome.