A company is known by its logo. It becomes the symbol through which brands or companies are known worldwide. In fact, we can readily identify the brand through the logo itself – no text or other forms of identification are necessary. Nike is one of the few brands that have come up with the simple but brilliant “swoosh” symbol that is now ubiquitous around the world. People across the globe now associate the “swoosh” symbol with running and fitness products that are of high quality. The Nike logo has done something that eludes most companies – create a global symbol that carries the same meaning across cultures and boundaries.
How the “Swoosh” Came Into Being
The company is now endorsed by many superstar athletes such as Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Shane Warne, and Serena Williams, among many others. Nike, during its early years, was nowhere near as big. It had its modest roots in Blue Ribbon Sports, which is where the logo came into being.
The “swoosh” symbol was designed by Carolyn Davidson in 1971. She was a graphic design student at Portland State University where she met Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. He was teaching accounting classes and managing BRS when he commissioned the logo from Davidson. She was doing freelance work at the time, charging a rate of $2 per hour. Knight approached her for design ideas, which she gladly obliged.
Davidson presented Knight with a number of options in June 1971. He, and a number of BRS executives, ultimately selected the “swoosh” mark that was adopted for the “Nike” brand. How much did Davidson make out of this arrangement? She submitted a bill for $35 for the work she had done. Neither party had any idea that the Nike brand would get so big and that the logo would be a global icon someday. Do not be disappointed, however, as Knight, when Nike became popular, presented Davidson with a gold “swoosh” ring and an envelope filled with company stock to express his gratitude.
What Does the “Swoosh” Mean?
Simple, fluid, and fast are three words that are frequently used to describe the Nike logo. It has gone through many iterations since its inception in 1971, but the “swoosh” has maintained a constant presence. It signifies the wing of the Greek goddess of victory. When it first appeared in ’71, it was printed in orange over a checkmark’s outline. It was meant to symbolize positivity and victory. In fact, the goddess Nike was a source of inspiration and courage for warriors.
Davidson had combined the philosophy of inspiration and courage to create an interesting outlook for the company. The symbol signified strength for athletes who chose Nike products. When put together with Knight’s focus on quality it became a symbol for excellence. This was helped by the “Just Do It” slogan. The combination of the logo and slogan worked towards expressing the essence of the Nike brand in ways that was not possible before.
Cultural Impact of the Nike Logo
Nike, having played a major role in the development of identity in the past few decades, now sits atop the global cultural pyramid. There are only a few icons that come to mind faster than Nike. The ubiquitous Nike logo has played a global impact on how we perceive athletics. In fact, it now signifies ‘cool’ and even status among various social groups.
The Nike logo has helped the company inject itself into the very fabric of culture by defining what it means to be athletic. The company has changed itself over the years, maintaining its appeal by changing aesthetics, among other things. But the “swoosh” has remained largely unchanged, symbolizing its cultural impact. No matter what you do or where you go, Nike products are easily identifiable by the distinguished “swoosh” and the excellent slogan that accompanies it.
As it is, the Nike logo is one of the very few pieces of brand imagery that is readily identifiable by people no matter where they are from. The “swoosh” has done wonders to the company, placing it in an enviable position of cultural power that is so difficult to come across these days. Starting from humble origins, the Nike logo has gone on to disrupt and shape culture over the years, thus shaping generations across the planet.