May 29, 2012 BY John Kim
Branding is paramount to success – just ask the founders of Apple, Inc., McDonald’s, automobile manufacturers, and clothing labels that have risen to worldwide prominence and retail dominance in the history of consumerism. The importance of visual iconism was a concept grasped thoroughly by Phil Knight, who created Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964; once BRS became more profitiable, Knight commissioned Carolyn Davidson, a student at Portland St. University, to create a new logo that would represent the new brand, and although Knight claimed that he initially didn’t love the design, he stated he would eventually let it ‘grow on him’. Knight paid Davidson $35 for her work and the first Nike shoe bearing the Swoosh logo was released just one year later in 1972 during the U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR. Since its debut, the Swoosh has matured into the definitive logo in the world of sports, evolving from a simple running sneaker into the utmost in athletic outfitting covering the entire spectrum of sports activity.
The domain of the Swoosh branched out to a number of specific kingdoms, later giving way to a wide variety of species that were visually and technically distinct from one another; In Basketball, there was Flight, the Alpha Project, Force, Battlegrounds, and in Running, there was Max Air, Tuned Air, Zoom Air, Shox, Free – a seemingly endless kingdom covering every possible corner limited by whatever was humanly possible. The Nike Logo Project, displayed in an exhibition space at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, OR, is a recollection of the vast history of the Nike logo and its offspring, sprouting from the original Swoosh into some of the most historic emblems ever known like the ‘Jumpman’ and the simplistic Nike Sportswear crests. Nike embarked on the Logo Project not long ago and was rather secretive about it until its completion, and not until you see the hundreds of logos blocked together in this manner do you realize that having the mindset of ‘no limits’ will only lead to this level of widespread dominance. What’s more amazing is that these few hundred logos were able to exist in a world where singular iconism – exhibited by the aforementioned Apple and Golden Arches – make or break the true longevity of a brand, so could the argument could be made that the Swoosh is the ‘logo’ of the last half-century? Much props to the crew at Sole Movement for bringing this insane display to the public, so flip through the amazing gallery below and let us know which logo is your favorite!