In 1971, Carolyn Davidson was a design student at Portland State University. This is where Phil Knight, one of the founders of Nike and an assistant professor at PSU, struck up a conversation with her and asked Davidson to come up with some logo designs for his new sportswear company. Davidson designed the swoosh, perhaps the most recognisable logo of the 20th century. She was paid just $US35 for her work.
“Well, I don’t love it,” Phil Knight is reported to have said about the swoosh design at the time, “but maybe it will grow on me.”
The design indeed grew on Knight, as it did the rest of the world. But as Nike swelled to become a multi-million dollar behemoth (it went public in 1980), the company realised that $US35 for Davidson’s design was a steal. Executives decided that she should see something more for her contributions to the company. Eventually, Davidson would be compensated more robustly, with Nike providing her a more substantial pay package in 1983.
Some estimate that her Nike stock is now worth about $US600,000, though that’s never been independently confirmed. Davidson simply insists that she’s no millionaire. You can watch video of Davidson describing her creation of the logo at KGW in Portland.
Image: Packers Nike swoosh cleats in 2014 via Getty