The Birth of Nike's Iconic 'Swoosh'

Designer of the 'Swoosh' logo, Carolyn Davidson looks back
By Sarah Whitmire,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2011 10:02 AM CDT
In this photo taken March 15, 2011, Nike cleats are seen on Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (18) in a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.   (AP Photo/David Goldman)

(Newser) – Sometime during 1971, graphic design student Carolyn Davidson sat in her studio scrawling sample logos on tissues, and holding them up to a drawing of a shoe. Her client was an economics professor she’d happened to meet at Portland State University, Phil Knight, who needed a logo for a new brand of athletic shoes. Knight was looking for something iconic like Adidas' three stripes, so when he saw the black, curvy checkmark from Davidson’s sketches, he wasn't impressed. "Well, I don't love it," said the future co-founder and CEO of Nike, "but maybe it will grow on me." This year, as the Swoosh turns 40, it's ubiquitous, notes the Oregonian

Davidson charged Knight a paltry $35 for the 17 1/2 hours she spent sketching the Swoosh, and watched the company explode, going public in 1980. Three years later, Knight and other execs threw Davidson a surprise party, giving her a gold and diamond Swoosh ring and 500 Nike shares—which the Oregonian estimates would be worth about $643,000. Of her curvy creation, Davidson says, "I like it. I really do. I never get tired of looking at it."

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