Nike Swoosh’s 40th Birthday


The Nike Swoosh is one of the best recognized logos in the world. It also boasts one of the longest terms in continual use. Whether you are wearing thirty year old Nikes or brand new ones, they probably have the familiar curved checkmark.

The humble story of the Nike Swoosh has become a near-legend. A Portland State graphic arts student was paid $2 an hour—not a bad wage in 1971, but not a great one either—to design the legendary logo. The owner of Nike, Phil Knight, wanted a shape that would signify movement but without being similar to the sports logos of the day. He was a little underwhelmed by the resulting Swoosh but decided to use it anyway. The student wanted time to refine the work, but Knight needed a logo immediately. The final bill was $35.

Why did Phil Knight originally dislike the Swoosh? He was very enamored with a competitor’s logo—the Adidas stripes—and was not sure the humble Swoosh would be as popular.

The Swoosh has gone on to be one of the most famous logos in global business. The Nike corporation earned more than $19 billion last year in sales, many of those dollars coming from merchandise bearing their recognizable Swoosh. Clearly this design has been an integral part of Nike’s success.

In 1983, the company decided to reward the graphic artist for the longevity of the logo she had designed. They threw a party in which the logo designer was given a gold ring bearing the Nike Swoosh and a certificate for a large amount of Nike stock, which the designer still has not sold.

We’ll forgive Nike for hiring a student rather than a professional designer; at the time, logo design was much less affordable than it is now. And, after all, the ends justify the means. The startup company had a logo at last, one that would become a core part of their growing brand. As the Swoosh approaches its 40th birthday, we are sure that Nike considers their $35 money well spent.

How has logo design affected Nike? It is difficult to see the company achieving the same success without good branding. The Swoosh logo is a huge part of that brand. Sure, there are other components of that brand (the Just Do It tagline, for example) that have contributed to the company’s success, but the Swoosh has laid the foundation for the brand.

Logo design is a valuable part of building a brand, and a logo design that does its job is worth more than its weight in gold—just ask the designer of the Swoosh, who has a gold ring bearing her famous design! Is your logo design good enough to be the face of a successful, growing business? Does it represent you perfectly and give you the edge you need? Will it look just as good in forty years? If not, it may be time to find out how good design can change your business.

Nike All Conditions Gear (ACG) Logo Design

In 1989, Nike launched the ACG (All Conditions Gear) division targeting the outdoor market. Working with a team of athletes and mountain guides, Nike designed the collection to appeal to everyday athletes who depend on their gear to handle the challenges of trail and stream. The designers continue producing cutting edge styling and performance in innovative apparel. Utilizing their R&D department to best effect, they continue to produce styles that offer the very latest technology in super limited quantities.

The ACG sports logo design is a simple iconic logo that combines the Nike icon (the swoosh) and two triangles facing side wise. The two triangles look like an abstract representation of human lungs. Perhaps this is to show the core of endurance and the strength needed to navigate the outdoor adventures.

I like this logo because of the simplicity, the warm color and the integration of the Nike core logo.