Brand Stories: The Evolution of the Nike Logo

The Nike “swoosh” is one of the most recognizable and iconic logos of all time. It is so well known that many of their recent advertisements forgo the Nike name entirely and use only the logo, usually combined with their slogan “Just do it.”

The logo was designed by graphic design student Carolyn Davidson, who had been attending the university where Nike founder Phil Knight was working as an accounting professor. Despite being a famously simple logo, it has evolved and changed since it was initially conceived.

1971

Carolyn Davidson’s initial mockups didn’t impress Knight much, but he chose to use it anyway, accepting that it would probably grow on him over time.

1978

In 1978, the cursive serif font was replaced by Futura Bold, a much more geometric shape, with the edge of the “E” running into the tail of the swoosh. The kerning style is notably interesting, with varied spacing between each letter.

1985

For a short time, Nike placed their logo in a red square. This didn’t last very long, though it was during the mid-80s that Nike began scoring major athlete endorsements, the most prominent of which was Michael Jordan. By the late 80s, Nike introduced their slogan “Just Do It”. According to legend, the slogan was inspired by the last words of death row murderer Gary Gilmore, who is said to have exclaimed “let’s do it” before his execution.

1995

By 1995, Nike adopted their current logo, the lone swoosh. Today, the swoosh is understood to be a symbol of speed, athleticism, and quality in apparel design. Frequently cited as one of the most recognizable logos in the world, the Nike logo makes a strong argument for simplicity.