One of the most recognized brands worldwide is Nike, featuring its famous Swoosh logo. The history of the logo is colorful and much insight can be gleaned from its concept and development.

ideasIn the late 60’s, Phil Knight was teaching accounting at Portland State and he approached a college student named Carolyn Davidson to do some graphic design work for him because he heard she needed money to take an oil painting class. They agreed on $2 per hour and their relationship began. After working for several years as a freelance graphics designer for Phil, he asked her in early 1971 to create a new logo for a shoe company he was starting.

She created several logos and presented them. The Swoosh was not immediately accepted and she was asked if she had others. After presenting several other designs it was decided to go with the Swoosh because they needed it immediately and Phil said, “We don’t love it but maybe it will grow on me.”

And the rest is history. The Nike Swoosh is one of the most recognizable logos in the world. And what whopping sum did Carolyn get paid? $35 for the 17.5 hours it took her to create the design options presented to Phil. Pretty good investment.

Where do we look for fresh ideas in higher education? Industry experts, benchmark studies, consultants? Maybe it is time we start looking at the customers we serve for how we should be redesigning higher education. That is only the beginning. Instead of rejecting new ideas because “we have never done it that way,” we need some of Phil’s attitude. I don’t love it but maybe it will grow on me.

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