Case Study: Nike Digital Logos

Nike is one of the more persnickety companies I have worked for when it comes to adhering to brand guidelines (especially regarding the “swoosh” icon). Not only that, but every employee has a sense of pride – often seeing themselves as unofficial “brand ambassadors” and willing to call out any instance where a design strays from the guidelines.

I was first asked to design a logo for a women’s networking group within Nike – Women of Digital and Friends. This group not only holds events and meetings on the Nike campus, but they also go out and encourage girls in local communities to get more interested in STEM. So my job was to incorporate Nike somehow into this logo without saying Nike.

The swoosh was a natural choice. It is without a doubt, one of the most identifiable logomarks in the world. However, there are extremely stringent restrictions on how it can be used. So to use it, I not only needed to understand the brand guidelines thoroughly, but I also needed to understand how and when to respectively break the rules. Part of my research before I put pencil to paper included looking at as many recent apparel, packaging and advertising campaign designs as possible to see if there was any precedent to be creative with the swoosh. I found a couple of examples in the skater line where designers slightly bended the rules and off I went.

The logo would be featured on presentation materials, business cards, banners and swag, so it needed to be simple enough to stand out at a tiny scale, and also elegant enough to scale up to a billboard side if necessary. The membership of this organization included women in the highest positions of executive leadership within Nike Digital, so the logo had to be classy and corporate. I wanted something that would not be tied a font that would soon become dated and I limited myself to Nike brand fonts and colors since the swoosh was involved.

The WOD logo is the result. I created a geometric logo incorporating the asymmetrical swoosh. I used the “O” to create enough negative space around the swoosh to adhere to brand guidelines, as well as to balance the design. I utilized the Nike font to further associate the logo to the Nike brand. Finally, I chose the familiar and iconic Nike orange (used for their shoeboxes) as my accent color.

It was a hit with the board for WOD, but immediately questions arose about the use of the swoosh. So I took it to the brand ambassadors in the design department, who signed off on the reinterpretation of the brand guidelines.

And we were good to go.

Almost immediately afterwards, I was asked to design a logo for the Quality Engineering department in the same sprit as the WOD logo, so I took the same approach to the swoosh. This time. I used the swoosh to imply a checkmark and used the Nike green to associate with compliance and a system working as expected. As with the WOD logo, I sent the logo in to the design team for approval since I had again bent the guidelines a bit (this time I did it preemptively before the questions came up). It was also approved by the brand team, so when I delivered the final version of the logo, I included the written approval to address any objections.