Nike paid $35 for their iconic “Swoosh” logo.
Nike’s “Swoosh” is one of the most recognizable part of the franchise; however, co-founder Phil Knight initially was hesitant on the logo: “I don’t love it, but it will grow on me.”
Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University, was approached in 1971 by Knight. He founded Nike along with his University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman.
At the time, Knight was teaching an accounting class at Portland State until his sporting business gained momentum. He came upon Davidson who was sketching and wanted to know if she was interested in creating a design that showed movement for their shoe boxes.
Knight was facing a deadline. Japanese representatives were coming for a presentation and he wanted a product logo. Davidson came up with a several designs. Ultimately, Knight chose the “Swoosh” one. He told Davidson that the design would grow on him.
Davidson submitted a bill to Knight for $35 – charging $2 per hour for her work. By today’s standards that amount seems outrageously low for such an iconic symbol. However, as Nike grew successful, the founders did not forget about Davidson. In the beginning, she was hired to design ads, brochures and posters until 1976 when she decided to stay home and do freelancing. Nike then went with a full-service ad agency.
In September 1983, Davidson was invited to lunch to see some of the people she had worked with and, to her surprise, Knight was there as well. She was presented with a gold “Swoosh” ring embedded with a diamond. Davidson was also compensated with Nike stock options. It is unsure how much stock Knight gave her (Knight told Oprah Winfrey, during an interview, that Davidson was given a few hundred shares). “The stock has split three times since I received it, so I can definitely say that I have been well compensated for my design,” she says. “You must remember too, that this was something rather special for Phil to do, because I originally billed him and he paid that invoice.”
On June 18, 1971, the “Swoosh” was patented.
Allan Brettman, “Creator of Nike’s famed Swoosh remembers its conception 40 years later,” The Oregonian, June 15, 2011.