26 Mar STORY BEHIND JUST DO IT!! (NIKE LOGO) [Pearls from the Past-02]
Nike has established itself as the world’s most successful sportswear brand since 1971. Its famous “swoosh” is one of the globally recognised logos, endorsed by ambitious advertising campaigns, featuring some of the world’s most elite athletes. It’s an impressive legacy for something that was designed by an art student for just $35.
The story of Nike begins seven years before its founding by University of Oregon track athlete Philip Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman. In 1964 they opened a store called Blue Ribbon Sports which served as a distributor for Japanese shoemaker, known today as Asics. A simple logo was designed around the stores’ initials which were composed of parallel lines and interlocked to form a cohesive brand.
Coach Bowerman was on a constant quest to enhance his students’ performance, and he began to play around with his own designs. One morning he experienced a breakthrough as his wife made him waffles for breakfast. The waffle iron inspired him to create a similar pattern to increase the grip of his shoes and provide greater agility. This was how he developed Nike’s patented “Waffle Trainer” a pattern which is still used in production today.
In 1971 Phil Knight met aspiring artist Carolyn Davidson. He offered her freelance work to assist in designing a logo. Knight had a clear idea that he wanted a stripe of sports, something recognisable that could compete with Adidas and Puma but still carry its own identity. Carolyn submitted a dozen different prototypes. One of them was the mythical swoosh. It was bold and dynamic, a simple representation of movement and grace that would end up defining the brand for decades to come. The logo was chosen due to time constraints.
Perhaps it was the shoes, the brand, or the bright orange packaging which was purposely selected to attract customers, but whatever the case, Nike became a success which could barely keep up with customer demand. However, there was just one problem. People were having issues with the script font, thinking that it spelt out “Mike” or “Like”. Such a lapse of clarity was unacceptable, which is why the logo was revisited in 1978 by Art Director Denny Strickland of Brown Advertising Agency.
In 1982 Nike formed a long-lasting partnership with an advertising firm and fellow Oregonians Weyden & Kennedy. Two years later, Nike signed Michael Jordan to a five-year contract for a reported $2.5 million, sparking off one of the most successful celebrity endorsements of all time and solidifying Nike as a brand for elite athletes. The “Air Jordan” campaign spearheaded a whole new brand, featuring a silhouette of Michael Jordan, basketball in an outstretched hand, poised for victory.
The following year, Weyden & Kennedy put a subtle spin on the logo, placing it inside a rectangular box and inverting the design. It was inspired by Coca Cola’s “Arden Square” logo which created a similar profile for the global brand. By 1995, Nike had become such a name that they made the bold move of omitting the wordmark entirely, opting for swoosh as their official logo which has remained unchanged to this day.
In 2016, Co-Founder Phil Knight wrote in his book “Shoe Dog” about this company’s fantastic history and evolution as one of branding’s biggest success stories ever.