Nike Logo Design – History, Meaning, and Evolution.

Nike Logo Design – History, Meaning, and Evolution

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March 14, 2022 April 25, 2022 5 min
Victoria Fimmer photoAuthor by:Victoria Fimmer

Behind every great brand, there is a great logo. A brand’s symbol often conveys the message and history of the brand. The Nike logo is no exception; from its inception to the present day, the Swoosh has always been a synonym of performance and has been closely intertwined with Nike history.

Join us as we explore the origin of the Nike icon, the meaning behind it, and how it has changed through time.

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“Nike Logo Design – History, Meaning, and Evolution [Audio Version]”
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Nike Logo History, Meaning, and Evolution

You might think that a simple curved line can’t change the world of design. Well, you would be wrong. You might also think that Carolyn Davidson just sat down at her desk, and Swoosh, the Nike logo just poured out of her pencil. Well… wrong again!

The Nike logo has a lot of history that is worth exploring!

First youtube logo.

Nike logo

What is the real meaning behind the iconic Nike symbol? It is meant to represent the Greek Goddess of Victory named, you guessed it, Nike. Specifically, the logo is reminiscent of the shape of one of her wings (yes, Nike gives you wings…). Nevertheless, the fluidity of the logo means that you don’t need to be a mythology expert (or even make the connection at all) to see that ‘swoosh’ (the sound of movement, speed, and power) communicates positive drive, a fast pace, and dynamicity. Genius!

Nike Logo History & Evolution

It took Phil Knight (who founded Blue Ribbon Sports, which would later become Nike in 1964), almost eight years to come up with the Nike logo. The name was officially changed in 1971, sometime after a friend of Knight’s had a dream about the Greek goddess. The same year, Carolyn Davidson came up with the Swoosh trademark logo. After several failed attempts, she finally scratched a curved line on a sheet of paper out of anger, and that was the seed from which the Nike Swoosh was born.

One of the most incredible facts about the Nike logo is that it has remained fundamentally unaltered throughout the decades. The only thing that has really changed from the original Nike logo and the modern design is the font, which went from a cursive serif script to a bolder block letter sans-serif (more about this further down). Use of the text was ultimately abandoned in the mid-1980s when the brand had become unmistakably recognizable solely by the Swoosh.

The image below illustrates how little the Nike logo changed over the years.

First youtube logo.

Evolution of the Nike logo over years

This is a brief history of how the logo changed, period by period:

  • 1964-1971 The logo Nike used when it was still called Blue Ribbon Sports had a classic 1960s flavor with outlined letters.
  • 1971-1978 The company changed its name and Carolyn Davidson nailed the logo design. Nike was superimposed on the logo and was written in cursive letters.
  • 1978-1985 The font was changed to a slanted Futura Bold, which better embodies the philosophy of the brand and leaves more space for the logo to be fully appreciated. Also, small tweaks to the silhouette of the Swoosh were made.
  • 1985-1995 The Nike writing above the logo is made skinnier, making the logo even more agile. In the same period, the writing was often completely abandoned, as the Swoosh had become recognizable worldwide.

First youtube logo.

Nike logo history and evolution infographic by MasterBundles

Who Designed the Nike Logo?

As we said, the Nike icon was designed by Carolyn Davidson, who was an acquaintance of Phil Knight and studied at the University of Oregon.

Davidson had already done several smaller jobs for Knight, but this was the most important task: to create a Nike logo that would set the brand apart from the competition, convey dynamism, look good on shoes, and be easily recognizable. What can we say… mission accomplished!

Carolyn was initially paid $35 for her work (around $200 today). She was later awarded Nike shares that are now valued at over $1 million. So, what’s the lesson in this? Freelancers should not dismiss those low-paying jobs after all!

Nike Logo Meaning

The Nike symbol’s meaning is the wing of the Greek Goddess of Victory and patron of athletes. Metaphorically, wings allow you to move faster, and reach the top; all things that an athlete should aspire to. Moreover, the downward direction communicates velocity, you can almost see the Nike emblem moving fast before your eyes.

One more cool fact: this logo is one of the very few brand logos that have a proper name, Swoosh.

Initially, the Nike symbol used a custom cursive serif typeface, which was then replaced by Futura Bold all-caps. Futura is a sans-serif block font that packs a punch and adds to the idea of strength and performance that Nike needs to convey.

Conclusion

Before we wrap this article up, how about a challenge? Grab yourself a Nike logo PNG file from the web and slap it on a shoe using Photoshop (or any image editor you fancy). Then try to come up with your own logo and compare the two. Are you the next design genius on the block?

Challenges aside, there are a few take-away lessons from analyzing Nike logo history. First, simple logo designs can be a game-changer; the important thing is clearly communicating the feel of the brand. Second, you never know when your big break is going to come along. On this note, why not try and sell your fantastic design on MasterBundles? Our Sell Your Deal form makes it super easy and exposes your work to thousands of potential buyers.



Nike Logo Design | Adobe Illustrator


In this video, I’ll walk you through the entire logo design process of the Nike logo from start to finish in the easiest steps using Adobe Illustrator CC.
 

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Freelance designer and copywriter
I devote all my free time to UX and UI design - I create the interface of apps and I am obsessed with it! If I find more free time, I write about UX and UI design and am also obsessed with writing :)
Awards
Certificate of completion of Victoria Fimmer.
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