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Mastering the Art of Branding: Lessons From the Nike Font and Logo

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Read Time: 7 min

It's impossible to think of a sports brand that has dominated the athletic world more completely or enjoyed more popularity for longer than Nike.

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Today we'll explore the history of this incredible brand, dive into its easy-to-identify logo, and showcase premium sans serif fonts similar to the Nike font.

Nike Origins

Previously known as Blue Ribbon Sports, the company that was to become Nike was founded in 1964 by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman.

The two men met in the 1950s when Knight, a middle-distance runner in college, trained under track and field coach Bowerman. In his free time, Bowerman was trying to find ways to enhance his students' performance by, among other things, improving their shoes. He was never quite successful, but when his former student Knight, who had gone on to complete his MBA in Finance from Stanford University, came to him with an idea to manufacture and import high-quality and low-cost running shoes from Japan, Bowerman was so impressed that the two decided to become partners in the venture. 

Mathieu Landretti, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia CommonsMathieu Landretti, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia CommonsMathieu Landretti, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons
Nike Air Jordan, Mathieu Landretti, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Knight initially sold the shoes from the boot of his car, but seven years later the company had grown to 50 employees. However, it wasn't until they rebranded and launched their own line of shoes that business began to take off.

In the 1970s Blue Ribbon Sports became Nike Inc., using the cool Nike logo in the form of a swoosh created by Portland State University student Carolyn Davis. In 1972, after years of struggle, they debuted a new lightweight training shoe at the U.S. Track & Field Trials, and in 1979, they launched the Nike Air technology, which really strengthened their status as a serious competitor in the market. With this launch, Nike quickly became the number one supplier of athletic shoes in the USA, and by the end of 1980, the company was listed on the stock exchange and gradually evolved into the leading sports brand in the world.

Nike Brand Design Elements

The Nike brand consists of three distinct elements:

  • text in a bold sans serif font
  • the Nike swoosh, also known as the Nike tick logo
  • the Nike slogan
The Evolution of the Nike Brand, Nike, Inc., Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsThe Evolution of the Nike Brand, Nike, Inc., Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsThe Evolution of the Nike Brand, Nike, Inc., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The Evolution of the Nike Brand, Nike, Inc., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What Font Does Nike Use?

The name of the Nike font is Futura. It is a clean and bold geometric sans-serif typeface designed by Paul Renner in 1927. 

Why Is the Nike Logo a Tick?

The Nike tick logo, better know as the Nike swoosh, was created by design student Carolyn Davis of Portland State University, where Knight was an accounting professor in 1971. Davidson is renowned for charging Knight just $35 for the iconic logo, but it should be noted that in 1983, three years after Nike went public, Knight presented Davis with 500 shares in Nike, estimated to be worth over $1 million today, to show his appreciation for her outstanding contribution to the brand.

Carolyn Davidson, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsCarolyn Davidson, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsCarolyn Davidson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Original Design by Carolyn Davidson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The swoosh is meant to resemble a wing and hint at Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Today, it's synonymous with athleticism, speed, and quality. As it's one of the world's more recognisable logos, in 1995 Nike decided to start using the swoosh alone to represent the brand.

Current Nike EmblemCurrent Nike EmblemCurrent Nike Emblem
Current Nike Emblem - Carolyn Davidson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What Is the Nike Slogan?

In 1988, Nike added the famous, "Just Do It" to its brand identity during a series of clever ad campaigns.

The slogan was apparently inspired by the last words of American murderer Gary Gilmore before the firing squad, "Let's do it."

  • You don't have to get it right all at once. Begin even if you don't have an ideal business name, and you can rebrand later. Nike was originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. Its name, logo, and slogan all came together over a span of years. 
  • Seek out partnerships and collaborations. You don't have to go it alone. Phil Knight turned to his former sports coach Bill Bowerman when he had the idea of establishing his business. He knew Bowerman had a similar interest in developing high-performance athletic shoes and had been experimenting for years.
  • Simplicity wins the day. Simple name, simple font, simple emblem, simple slogan. Simplicity is the hallmark of Nike's branding, and it certainly makes it easy to remember.  
  • A great branding idea doesn't have to break the bank. It is well known at this point that Nike didn't pay very much for its iconic logo. You can find great logos at affordable online marketplaces like Envato Elements and Placeit.
  • Embrace diversity in representation. Nike is renowned for inclusivity regarding age, race, gender, and disability in its marketing, and one could say that it's this very inclusivity that has made it even stronger and more appealing as a brand.
  • Be on the right side of history. Corporations are known for playing it safe and trying to sidestep controversy, especially that of a political nature. When Nike waded into the Colin Kaepernick vs. NFL controversy on the side of Kaepernick by featuring him in their 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign, they created a massive outcry but also enormous support. Far from hurting the business, the move sparked a huge boost in online sales.

10 Nike Logo Font Alternatives

If you love the cool Nike logo and want to create a logo using a similar font, here are ten great choices from Envato Elements

1. Ezra Modern Sans (TTF, OTF, WOFF)

Ezra Modern SansEzra Modern SansEzra Modern Sans

You can capture the clean lines of the Nike font with Ezra Modern Sans. Ezra offers 14 fonts in various weights and italic versions. This modern font is perfect for branding because it allows for mixing of the weights to create a cohesive look. 

2. Nero Ultra Wide Display (TTF, OTF, WOFF)

Nero Ultra Wide DisplayNero Ultra Wide DisplayNero Ultra Wide Display

Nero Ultra Wide Display brings an ultra-wide aesthetic to the sans serif font that Nike uses. The font is legible at all sizes, so it's a great choice for branding, packaging, posters, social media, titles, and more. 

3. Bizmo (TTF, OTF, WOFF)


The Bizmo font family was created to use in large projects but can also be used effectively at smaller sizes. That's because it consists of nine weights, each with matching obliques, that you can use according to your project's size and needs.

4. Neretto Sans (OTF)

Neretto SansNeretto SansNeretto Sans

Neretto Sans is certainly the font to choose when you need your text to stand up and be noticed. The characters are thick and black, with an additional version in obliques. 

5. Oscan Expanded Display Sans Serif Font (TTF, OTF, WOFF)

Oscan Expanded Display Sans Serif FontOscan Expanded Display Sans Serif FontOscan Expanded Display Sans Serif Font

Check out Oscan Expanded Display Sans Serif Font, another terrific alternative to the Nike font, albeit in an expanded aesthetic. This uppercase-only font offers three styles: regular, rounded, and outline.

6. Downey Powerful Wide Sans (TTF, OTF, WOFF)

Downey Powerful Wide SansDowney Powerful Wide SansDowney Powerful Wide Sans

You can't go wrong with Downey Powerful Wide Sans. Downey is an elegant contemporary font in uppercase lettering only. It comes in five styles—light, regular, bold, black, and outline—so you have plenty of options for creating your own standout text.

7. Veonika Modern Expanded  (TTF, OTF, WOFF)

Veonika Modern ExpandedVeonika Modern ExpandedVeonika Modern Expanded

Veonika Modern Expanded brings a bit of flair to the simpler Futura font that Nike uses. Veonika is perfect for branding, signage, titles, advertising, merchandising, and more. 

8. Nextrue (OTF)


Nextrue is a cool sans serif font family with 12 different styles, as well as ligatures and alternatives that you can use to create your own signature look. Nextrue is an excellent choice for branding, magazine covers, product labels, titles, and more.

Rebork Expanded Modern Neon Sans TypefaceRebork Expanded Modern Neon Sans TypefaceRebork Expanded Modern Neon Sans Typeface

When you're looking for a font like the one Nike uses, you can't go wrong with Rebork Expanded Modern Neon Sans Typeface. This fabulous font is perfect for a wide range of uses, from titles to branding.

10. Rugen All Caps Expanded (TTF, OTF, WOFF)

Rugen All Caps ExpandedRugen All Caps ExpandedRugen All Caps Expanded

Rugen All Caps Expanded is one of those bold, no-nonsense fonts you won't easily forget. Offered in expanded and outline styles, this font is a great choice when you need two compatible fonts to combine in one project.

Download Your Favourite Resources Today

Now that you know a whole lot about the Nike brand, including the name of the Nike font and where to find lookalike fonts, head to Envato Elements and download your favourites today. 

Here are more top resources and tutorials to try from Envato Tuts+:

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