Don’t Underestimate Your Intern: Vol. 1

July 13, 2016
By Robelen Bajar

Making use of an internship program or hiring junior staff in the workplace today can sometimes be overlooked due to people’s concern that they’re a waste of the company’s time and resources. Contrary to the fact, interns are extremely beneficial to businesses for a variety of reasons — below is a prime example of how hiring a student helped create one of the world’s most recognisable logos today.

Carolyn Davidson is no house-hold name, but for the sporting brand Nike she is one of the most influential and monumental employees to ever be a part of the company. Before the Nike brand was born, Davidson was a student at Portland State University where one of the co-founders of Nike, Phil Knight, was teaching as an assistant professor in accounting. At the time Knight ran a business called Blue Ribbon Sports, which would end up being the precursor to Nike.

Davidson was your typical struggling graphic design University student, doing freelance whilst studying full-time. By chance, Knight overhead Davidson chatting with a fellow class member that she didn’t have enough money to enrol in an oil painting class. He later approached her to see if she’d be interested in doing some freelancing for him — this would be a start of a very important working relationship between the two.

Davidson initially began doing various freelance jobs for Blue Ribbon Sports when Knight decided to take the company to the next level. He moved from being a sport shoe distributor to manufacturing and selling how own sporting shoe line. Given the new company, Knight needed what was known in the industry as a ‘stripe’, which was the slang term at the time for a logo for a shoe.


Davidson took roughly three weeks, working on different concepts to see which best projected Knights vision which was to give the impression of motion. In their final meeting Davidson presented five or six designs to Knight and his team to review. Knight’s response to what we know today as the ‘swoosh’, “I don’t love it, but I think it will grow on me.” Davidson submitted her invoice for the work of $35 ($46 AUD). Since then Davidson has gone on to working as a graphic designer for the majority of her career, freelancing to a variety of clients — being known as the creator of the Nike logo certainly helped.

The story doesn’t end there — just after the company went public, Knight wanted to show his gratitude to Davidson by inviting her to lunch. The lunch happened to be a massive party held in her honour where she was given a gold ring which had the ‘swoosh’ on it and a diamond in the centre. He also gifted her with five hundred shares.

At the time the shares were worth around $8000 which Davidson has never cashed out. Since that time, there have been four instances where the stock has been split, today those five hundred shares are now eight thousand shares. At the current stock price of roughly $58, the $8,000 gift of stock in 1983 is now worth roughly $465,000.

Davidson’s work is a good example of how every connection in the design world can be important, and how little jobs and efforts can ultimately pay off in very big ways. In Knight’s case, giving Davidson an opportunity gave him new perspectives and assistance on projects that he was struggling to complete due to his financial situation — not a bad result if you ask us!

Register your business with Paddl today to connect with eager students looking for industry-relevant work related to their course.