The Nike Swoosh is one of the most recognized logos in the world, but did you know that Nike founder Phil Knight half-heartedly endorsed the symbol when it was first presented to him?
According to Nike archives, Knight was teaching an accounting class at Portland State University to supplement his income while launching Nike Inc., which at the time was known as Blue Ribbon Sports Inc. He met a graphic design student, Carolyn Davidson, working on an assignment in the hallway and asked if she would be interested in doing design work for Blue Ribbon Sports.
Knight needed some graphics for a presentation and also asked Davidson to work on a logo for the shoe. He wanted something that suggested movement and she came back with several designs, none of which really grabbed Knight’s attention. But there was little time for redesigns because boxes needed to be printed to meet shipment deadlines, so Knight choose the Swoosh. According to Nike archives, Knight told the designer, “I don’t love it, but it will grow on me.”
Davidson billed Knight $35 for designing the logo, and he paid it. She also continued doing graphic work for the shoemaker until the the fast-growing company had to hire a full-service ad agency.
The story could have ended there, but Knight threw a surprise party for Davidson in 1983, and presented her with a gold Swoosh ring embedded with diamonds, as well as an undisclosed amount of stock in Nike.
“The stock has split three times since I received it, so I can definitely say that I have been well compensated for my design,” Davidson told a Nike archivist . “You must remember too, that this was something rather special for Phil to do, because I originally billed him and he paid that invoice.”