A fairly safe rule for logo design: avoid the SWOOSH.
The Nike logo story is now part of graphic design legend: how Carolyn Davidson, a student at Portland State, randomly met Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike, in the hallway at school and accepted his offer to work on a logo for his growing company – one that would “convey motion and look good on a shoe.” After many hours of work and a $35 payment for her trouble, Knight’s initial reaction: “Well I don’t love it, but maybe it will grow on me.”
Millions of dollars later, somehow that Nike swoosh has become THE iconic example of a brand mark and logo identity that do their job right – it represents both Nike and the value of a recognizable brand mark. The logo has been on Nike shoes since 1972 and is internationally recognized. “Swoosh” even has its own Wikipedia entry.
This popularity has, of course, bred imitations. While that exact “swoosh” is the property of Nike, the swoosh-type shape has been borrowed and appropriated for many, many other enterprises. Keep your eyes open online and in print, and you’ll see the swoosh again and again… and again.
Just a quick glance through our shop here, and a few magazines that were lying about, yielded these examples:
While one company certainly can’t monopolize a basic geometric shape, originality matters in effective logo design. You want to get noticed, not blend in with the crowd. Avoiding the “swoosh”, for the foreseeable future, is probably a good rule to keep in mind when branding your business.
FYI – for further reading…
Author Per Mollerup has an amazing, newly revised book out called “Marks of Excellene: The History and Taxonomy of Trademarks.” It covers the history of the human need to create trademarks, and is useful for anyone interested in branding, advertising, and design. It is reviewed by Slate.com here.
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