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What Font Does Nike Use?
Along with Coca-Cola and MacDonald’s, Nike is one of the most recognizable brands on the planet, and this monopoly on the commercial sporting world didn’t happen by accident.
It’s the result of a collection of very deliberate marketing and branding strategies, one of the most important of which, has been the company’s choice of font over the years.
While it’s true that Nike has become so ubiquitous that their iconic swoosh logo announces their presence before a single word has been read, their fonts have also become an extension of brand identity.
So, let’s take a closer look at their go-to typeface, and where it came from.
The “Nike Font”
Nike has used a number of fonts during its 67 years as a brand, but the one that comes to mind when we all think of that “Just Do It” slogan is known as Futura Condensed Extra Black.
This original version of this iconic font was created by German typeface designer, Paul Renner, in 1927, 37 years before Nike even existed as a corporate entity.
Check out a classic example of Nike’s use of Futura on this t-shirt.
A Brief History Of Futura
Before Nike sunk their teeth into this bold and exclamatory font, it was used heavily by many organizations in many industries.
Initially developed as a contribution to the New-Frankfurt Project, an affording public housing initiative started in Frankfurt in 1925, it would eventually become one of the most successful typefaces of the 20th century.
Futura is based on geometric sans-serif typography. The extra focus on circles as a base of the typeface design was inspired by the legendary Bauhaus style of the era.
Renner believed that fonts should dislocate themselves from historical influence where possible and that modern typefaces should speak for the times in which they are created.
It was this anti-revivalist ethos that helped Futura break the mold and attain an enduring relevance.
Renner’s wanting to leave things in the past is also undoubtedly one of the reasons why the name of his infamous typeface creation ended up as a reworking of the word “future”.
He championed simplicity above all else, rejecting the “grotesque” sans-serif stylings of by-gone eras, although he did accept one major classical influence, the proportions of the Roman capitalized letter.
The lowercase letters of Futura take a predominantly single-story form, meaning that they lack a finial, which helps to increase the almost child-like simplicity of the font.
Omitting the finials was almost unheard of in typography, as it was thought of chiefly as a handwritten form, but in shirking the formality of typical printed text, Renner created something that truly stood out.
Another defining feature of the Futura lowercase is the tall ascender, which, in typography, refers to the portion of a small letter that extends beyond the mean line of a font.
The vertical line in the letter “d” is a great example of an ascender, as is the vertical line in the letter “h”.
In Futura, ascenders travel up slightly beyond the cap line marking the peak of the capitalized letters.
This minuscule extension helps to breathe a bit of life into the middle of words and sentences, demanding attention and encouraging a thorough read.
The company responsible for selling Futura paired it with the slogan “die Schrift unserer Zeit”, which means “the typeface of our time”, and the English slogan used by their American distribution operation was “the typeface of today and tomorrow”. How right they were!
The artful minimalism of Futura imparted a clear and memorable message before a single word of copy had even been read.
It was an impactful quality that a number of institutions looking to present themselves as progressive entities picked up on.
As a fairly young nation, this bold new font struck a chord in the States, and while it was used in the UK, a similar typeface known as Gill Sans created by British typographer, Eric Gill, stole some of Futura’s thunder.
Despite Renner’s staunch opposition to Nazi politics, Futura was eventually incorporated in the fascist regime’s propaganda.
Ironically, its first appearance was on a poster advertising a Nazi exhibition curated to shame modern art.
Why Did Nike Adopt Futura As Their Principle Font?
It wasn’t long after the company’s inception that Nike started using the Futura font on its products and in its marketing.
With its mixture of classicism and modernism, Futura seemed the perfect fit for a brand whose name referred to the Greek goddess of victory, and whose mission was to push sports into the future.
The font was chosen for its exclamatory frankness.
The profile of the lettering jumped out at you and created crisp, clear lines like that of the city skyline, rather than the rolling oceanic seascape of more classical italic fonts.
Furtura was chosen by Nike for its visibility, power, and its readiness for adaptation, allowing them to tweak it into something more unique to the brand.
It’s a strong font that insinuates that the products it fronts share the same quality.
Future Fonts Of Nike
If you take a look at Nike’s website, those of you with a keen eye for typography may notice something peculiar.
While there are still little bursts of Futura Condensed Extra Black here and there, there seems to have been a shift in primary font to Trade Gothic Bold Condensed, with Helvetica used for body copy.
Whether this is part of an ongoing transition that will slowly phase out Futura for good is unknown, but as this original font has become so entwined with Nike’s brand identity, it seems unlikely that they’d part ways with it altogether.
There you have it, folks; The quintessential Nike font is derived from the typeface known as Futura, which was developed by German designer Paul Renner in 1927.
It was created to complement the modern era, and it was so effective that nearly 100 years later, it still seems to embody the bold, forward-thinking spirit that lay at the heart of its conception.
Nike may be gradually introducing different fonts to their website, but moving forward, there’s a good chance that Futura will remain a core part of their brand identity.