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The 10 best logos of all time

03. Nike

Best logos: The Nike tick logo in black

Carolyn Davidson designed this logo in 1971 for a fee of only $35

Ticking all the boxes for $35

The Nike emblem is one of the world's most recognisable, and it's often the simplest ideas that are the best – as proved by this mark created by Portland student Carolyn Davidson in 1971. Paid $35 for the logo at the time, she later, in 1983, received a gold swoosh ring embedded with a diamond and an envelope containing Nike stock from founder Phillip Knight. It's perhaps one of the most interesting – and most widely reported – stories in logo design history. 

Best logos: Early sketches of the Nike logo and US Patent papers

Nike swoosh sketches by Carolyn Davidson and US Patent papers

Victory

Davidson's tick-like logo was seen as a symbol of positivity, but it's actually the outline of the wing of the goddess Nike (who personified victory). Her logo was subsequently registered as a trademark and, aside from some tinkering with the Nike lettering, has remained unchanged.

Black and white photo of a man holding a shoe with the Nike tick logo

A Nike archive shoot from the 70s of a running shoe bearing the famous swoosh

Chasing Originality

According to Nike's website, upon first seeing Davidson's design, Knight said: "I don't love it, but it will grow on me." In 2011, Davidson told OregonLive.com that it was a challenge to come up with a logo that conveyed motion and that Phillip Knight was very impressed with the stripes of rival company Adidas, so it was increasingly hard to come up with something original. 

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Garrick Webster is a freelance copywriter and branding specialist. He’s worked with major renewable energy companies such as Ecotricity and the Green Britain Group, and has helped develop award-winning branding and packaging for several distilleries in the UK, the US and Australia. He’s a former editor of Computer Arts magazine and has been writing about design, creativity and technology since 1995.