The Nike Swoosh

on Monday, 09 April 2012. Posted in Branding Burns

graphic design portland, oregon Nike

Portland, Oregon - For a designer, learning about the origin of a famous logo is much like an aspiring archaeologist learning about King Tut or Pompeii. Who designed the logo? How did they design it? How much did they get paid? (When the design team who created the questionable 2012 Summer Olympics logo gets paid $660,000, why wouldn't we want to know how much the designer of such an iconic logo was compensated?). We want to learn from history, because history has so much to teach us.

For those of you who do not know the origin of the Nike logo, it is very interesting indeed. It’s been made even more intriguing by the enormity of the Nike brand across countries, sports, and mindshare. Who doesn’t know the old slogan “Just do it”?

One upon a time, Phil Knight, a University of Oregon alumnus, was teaching an accounting class at Portland State University where he met a young graphic design student, Carolyn Davidson, in the hallway. He offered her a few bucks to work on some designs for his little (at the time) shoe company.

Not long after she had been working for Phil, he came to her and asked if she could create a “shoe stripe” design for him. He wanted something with “movement,” and she created several options for him to choose from. Phil didn’t really like any of them, but needed to choose something quickly for a presentation. He chose the swoosh logo, and the rest is history.

Carolyn made $35 for the swoosh logo. She created one of the most iconic logos of our generation... for $35. Thirty-five dollars! Afterwards, she worked for some time on Nike brochures and other marketing materials, until the company was too big for a one woman show, and they parted ways.

Eventually, Carolyn was given a special award and stock options... no one knows how much. But, I think this story shows how subjective and varied design tastes and the value given to designers can be. A large design firm can create a scorned logo for $660,000, while a design student can create a revered logo for only $35.

Does this mean designers should be paid more or less? I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. What do you think?

Comments (0)

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.