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  • Writer's pictureKajol Mathur

From a freelance Project to a Global Icon : The Evolution of Nike's Logo


Who knew an investment of $35 on a logo design would go on to become a brand worth $35 billion. A mere $35 was invested in designing the Nike logo in 1971 by Co-founder Phill Knight which wasn't even satisfactory for him then and the same logo with minor adjustments went on to build a multi-billion dollar empire and one of the most influential & inspirational brands of the World so much so that now the logo is used without the name of the brand!


What it took to create one of the most iconic brand logos of the world? what led to the massive success and continued increase in the brand value of this company? how role does the brand logo play in the overall brand value of a company? Let's deep dive and find out.


Understand logo as a movie trailer. A trailer alone can not break the box office collections, can it? But can it build an expectation for the audience? can it build up hype? can it drive people to the theaters? Yes & yes. That's what a logo does. A logo is a sneek-peak into a 'Brand story', it's only an element of the whole concept but probably the most important one. An iconic logo is one which is like a movie trailer which captures the essence of the entire movie without giving the spoilers, a trailer exciting enough but not enough to know it all, simple yet impactful, memorable yet unique.


Now imagine a movie trailer that gives you an expectation of a romantic blockbuster only to turn out to be an action thriller. Now even if it was a great action thriller, your audience would feel cheated because they went to the theater expecting some romance. Now imagine a trailer that gives you a correct expectation and then when you see the entire movie, it blows your mind because it wasn't just a great romantic movie but also had a deep story line with emotions & drama & pinch of action in it!


Decoding Nike's Swoosh icon evolution


1964 : Birth of Blue Ribbon Sports


Nike as a company began life in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports, headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon. The sportswear firm was founded by Bill Bowerman, a track-and-field coach at the University of Oregon and his former student Phil Knight, who was an accounting major from Portland. Knight, who had previously traveled to Japan and forged a relationship with a sneaker company, negotiated a deal to import their shoes into the United States and thus they started out as Blue Ribbon Sports, a small distributorship for a Japanese sneaker company.


1971 : The world witnessed swoosh icon for the first time


In 1971, Blue Ribbon Sports became Nike. A young graphic design student by the name of Carolyn Davidson found herself in a chance encounter with Phil Knight. He approached her to design a logo for his Company that reflected the core values of the Company; speed, motion, a sense of movement. Carolyn took inspiration from the greek goddess of victory, Nike, and went on to design the 'swoosh logo' which was in the shape of wings to convey the feeling of motion & speed. Say the word 'swoosh' out loud. Do you see the magic? Connecting a symbol & a word with a feeling, all in complete harmony! Ask any creator, it's just not easy.


1978 : The swoosh is here to stay, solid.


We see the first big update of Nike logo, changing from Nike's first outlined logo to a solid logo. The logo font changes from cursive serif font to Nike Font that is similar to Futura Bold Condensed Oblique Font. The new solid swoosh logo looks more stable. This new mark was much more geometric and imposing, and the edge of the last letter was blended into the swoosh’s tail.


1988 : Just do it


The "Just Do It" slogan was coined in 1988 by Dan Wieden, an advertising executive, during a meeting with Nike's founder, Phil Knight. The inspiration for the slogan reportedly came from the final words of Gary Gilmore, a convicted murderer who was executed in Utah in 1977, who said "Let's do it" before his execution. Wieden modified the phrase to "Just Do It" and it became an instant hit, capturing the essence of Nike's brand philosophy which is all about pushing boundaries, taking risks and embracing challenges.


1995 : $35 pays off, a logo that doesn't need the brand name


Because the logo captured the essence of the Company in letter, spirit & symbol so well that there was no longer a need to associate the logo with the brand name. That is the biggest achievement for any graphic designer on planet earth. By 1995, Nike's Swoosh was so well known, it could afford to drop the wordmark altogether and just use the symbol logo alone. This also made it easy to embed or embroider it onto Nike shoes and clothing.


Why did it workout so well?


Converting passion into business & that business into a brand. They wanted to revolutionaries the footwear for athletes and that's exactly what they did. Both the founders were athletes themselves. They knew the pain-points of an athlete, what was required, what would work, what kind of feeling they want to invoke, what they stand for, what is the essence of their business. The majority of nike's success goes to the clarity of their vision. They wanted to invoke a feeling of movement, speed, victory, perseverance and they build each and every element of their brand around it, from their logo to their tagline, from their campaigns to their collaborations with international athletes. Every element states the same story over and over until the entire world relates the brand with that feeling!



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Sep 20, 2023

Give us a new blog , it's been months.

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