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Art & Design

Nike Swoosh Designer Discusses Her Iconic Creation

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It's the 40th anniversary of the Nike Swoosh. Designer Carolyn Davidson talks about creating the symbol when she was a college student. She's happy no one recognizes her: Although her symbol is famous, she's not.


This week marks the anniversary of a mark - a mark you may be wearing on your shoes right now. Forty years ago, Carolyn Davidson showed her boss a little drawing of a curved check on a piece of paper.

Ms. CAROLYN DAVIDSON (Designer): I remember when he picked The Swoosh, he said, I don't love it but it'll grow on me.


The Swoosh. The man smothering Carolyn Davidson with that faint praise for it four decades ago was Nike co-founder Phil Knight. And the drawing the shoe mogul hastily selected was the iconic image that graces all his company's footwear, boxes and ads today.

SIEGEL: At the time, Carolyn Davidson had no idea how much to charge for The Swoosh. Her assignment had been to come up with a logo for the running shoes. She was a novice, and asked for a $35 fee for the drawing. Since then, Nike has made billions. Eventually, the company gave her some stock. She's not quite a millionaire, she says, but she's famous - sort of.

Ms. DAVIDSON: I've pretty much stayed under the radar, and nobody knows who I am.

NORRIS: Davidson was a college student when Phil Knight hired her for his company. She says that one day, Knight stumbled upon her sitting in a hallway of Portland State University in Oregon. She was telling a friend she didn't have enough money to take an oil-painting class. Knight hired her as a graphic designer and a few years later, that's how she came to create one of the world's most memorable corporate logos.

Ms. DAVIDSON: When I see it on TV - and I turn on a game and both teams are in Nike, I mean, I just get a good feeling. Or if I turn a corner and run into a billboard, or if I watch the Olympics - I mean, it's just a good feeling inside.

SIEGEL: That's Carolyn Davidson, creator of the Nike Swoosh, born on a bit of tissue paper in 1971.

Of all the world's runners who wear Nike brands, there is one person who is not in their number.

Ms. DAVIDSON: I like to walk. I like to garden. But I never was into running.

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