Carolyn Davidson

I want you to look at your tennis shoes, what brand are they? Adidas? New Balance? Sketchers? Chances are they’re Nike. In my house, there’s a 90% chance that they are in fact, Nike. Like most people, there were just certain brands that your family insisted on having. Be that brands of Soda (Coke), computers (Windows), or Peanut Butter (Jiff). In my house, that brand was Nike. 

Nearly all my shoes growing up were Nike shoes and my mother refused to buy from any other brand. So naturally, I got familiar with the swoosh on the side. I spent many bored moments sitting in waiting rooms tracing the shape with my fingertips, the swoosh was a familiar symbol to me. Even today I have a couple of pairs of Nike Shoes laying around my house.

So, it was only natural, when it came time to sit down and begin to discuss Graphic design history in the blog that I look up one of the first ever logos I remember seeing. The Nike Swoosh.

 Current Nike Logo

Current Nike Logo

Carolyn Davidson is the original designer for the Nike logo. Created when she was a student at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon in 1971. Originally, Davidson was a journalism major at the beginning of her academic career with Portland State but then later she switched to Graphics design after taking a design class as an elective.

Phil Knight, a professor at the time, who was teaching an accounting class at the university overheard Davidson remark about how she couldn’t afford oil paints for a class commissioned her to do a logo for Blue Ribbon Sports (Later became Nike in May 1971). Davidson did five mock up designs. One of which was the iconic Nike swoosh.
 

 Original Mock-ups for the Nike Logo design with invoice

Original Mock-ups for the Nike Logo design with invoice

With deadlines and other pressures looming, Knight chose that design out of the five to have something to slap onto the product once the decision was made he then paid Davidson $35.00 (USD) which today would be about $217 (USD).

While this seems like a turn of bad luck on Davidson’s part, I mean, knowing how large Nike was later destined to become. This is by no means a Bill Finger situation (more on that here).

Three years after the Nike company went public, which is to say they opened up their stocks to the public, in 1983 Davidson was invited to a company lunch by Knight. During said lunch Davidson was not only given a diamond ring engraved with the Nike Swoosh, but she was then also given 500 shares of Nike’s stock (which is now grown into about 32,000 shares).

Currently Davidson is retired from the design scene (after retiring in 2000). She now enjoys hobbies and volunteer work in Oregon.

 Current picture of Carolyn Davidson

Current picture of Carolyn Davidson