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  • Writer's picturePaul McCabe

Nike 'Swoosh': A logo in history

In 1971, Phil Knight was teaching accounting at Portland State University. One day, he overheard a graphic design student say that she couldn’t afford to take a painting class.

Knight paid the student $35 to design a logo for his start-up shoe company, Nike. On seeing the design, Knight said, “I don't know if I like it, but maybe it will grow on me.” Knight felt he didn’t have time to fuss over a logo. Little did he realise how important it would turn out to be, what an icon of the 20th and 21st centuries that simple 'swoosh' would become.

'We had a deadline,' he explained. He had signed a contract with a factory to produce 3,000 pairs of Nike's first shoe and production was starting on the shoe that Friday and the company needed a logo.

Knight didn't 'love' the logo but he thought it would do, knowing they were out of time to develop anything else.

It's said that if not for constraints and deadlines, nothing would get made. George Lucas, for instance, worked on drafts of the first Star Wars for years until he struck a deal with United Artists to produce the movie.

"I never arrived at a degree of satisfaction where I thought the screenplay was perfect. At that point, it became an obligation," Lucas said.

"If I hadn't been forced to shoot the film, I would doubtless still be rewriting it now."

In 1980, Phil Knight gave the student who designed the 'Swoosh' 500 shares. She never sold and since then there have been 7 stock splits. So over the years those 500 shares have become 64,000 shares.

Nike shares now hover around $110/share. $110/share x 64,000 shares = $7,040,000.

I'm not just saying this for my own benefit, although I do love to save a bit of time! But if you need a logo designed, spend some time on it - but not too long. More often than not the first designs turn out to be the best.

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