Carolyn Davidson: The Goddess of Victory

The Swoosh history

The Nike ‘Swoosh’ is one of the most famous and recognizable logos on the face of the Earth.

Carolyn Davidson is the designer of the Nike Swoosh.

Davidson was studying graphic design at Portland State University when Phil Knight was also working there as a young associate professor of accounting. Knight would in the future go on to become a co-founder of Nike.


Knight was running the Blue Ribbon Sport (BRS) Company at the time, which distributed sneakers made by the Japanese brand Tiger.

It was during this time that the paths of Davidson and Knight crossed. Knight passed Davidson in the hallway at PSU one day while she was working on a drawing assignment, talking about how she didn’t have the money to afford to take oil painting. Hearing this, Knight decided to offer her some design work for his company.

In 1971 Knight decided to diversify the products imported from Japan from those produced by Blue Ribbon Sport, so he invited the young student to study something that could enhance the new shoes – the “Nike” model – of the Blue Ribbon and make them “captivating”. Carolyn Davidson accepted and worked on these logo designs for a total of 17.5 hours at an hourly rate of just $2, meaning she made just $35 for designing a logo that at the time no one would have predicted it would become the global icon it is today. She came up with a dozen of logos but none of which thrilled Knight, who chose what she considered “the least worst, but I’ll get used to it.”

The logo was registered on June 18, 1971.

Just six years later the Blue Ribbon name was abandoned and all products took on the Nike brand.

The swoosh becomes the official Nike logo in 1984 and Carolyn Davidson is recognized as the “mother” of the Swoosh.

She just did it

After the creation of the logo, Davidson continues to work for Nike mainly dealing with communication and advertising, creating posters, flyers and slogans, and remains with Nike until 1975. To seal the recognition, Knight gives her a gold ring in the shape of a swoosh, with a small diamond, which Carolyn still wears triumphantly today and never tires of looking. In addition to her ring, the company gives her the certificate of ownership of her logo.

With only a bunch of references and with her own vision, Caroline was capable to lock up the spirit and the soul of what Knight wanted to achieve and communicate.

It was the goddess of victory, Athena, Nikè in Greek, who inspired the incarnation of this concept, then also giving the brand a new name. The Nike logo is a visual representation of movement and speed and the name of the logo itself, renamed “Swoosh”, is an onomatopoeia that evokes the image and sound emitted by an athlete who performs a sprint starting from the block, going towards the victory.

Just do it!