What’s your favorite Nike logo of all time? The Swoosh and Jumpman logos are obviously number one and two, but after that there are plenty more up for debate.
For me, the Andre Agassi ‘A’ logo ranks in the top five greatest Nike logos of all time. Agassi was my favorite tennis player growing up in the ‘90s, and I wore several of his sneakers, shorts, and tees while playing varsity tennis in high school. I stared at that logo for years and always felt it was a work of art.
I’ve been following legendary Nike designer Tom Andrich for a while on Instagram, and recently learned he was the one who designed the ‘A’ logo. I figured I had to see if he’d be willing to share the story behind the logo and how it came about.
Featured on models like the Air Zoom Challenge 1 and 2, the Air Zoom Ablaze, the Air Zoom Pounce, Air Assailant, and tons of Dri-F.I.T. shirts, shorts and hats, the Agassi line in the mid to late ‘90s was edgy, fashion-forward, and functional for those who wanted to stand out on the tennis court. Here’s what Andrich had to say about how the logo was created:
DH: Can you tell us when you first started at Nike and what your first role was?
TA: I graduated from Oregon State University in the summer of ’83, moved to Portland in January of ’84, and was hired by Nike in February. I was hired to be an in-house graphic designer for apparel. I was 23 years old. The apparel design team was very small, so in that first year everybody had several roles; a lot of screen print production work, presentation work, catalog work, and some graphic design apparel projects. It was pretty entry level graphic design work with a handful of meaningful projects here and there.
DH: The Agassi ‘A’ logo is one of my all-time favorites – what do you remember about coming up with that design?
TA: Thank you. It is also one of my favorites. The logo, and how it came about, is something that I remember vividly. But the actual product around that time, not so much. After working on tennis from ’85-95, I was transitioning to another assignment within Nike and moved to Hong Kong in July ’95. In fact, I never had a hand in the implementation of the logo on the actual apparel from that point on.
Andre had won the Oz (Australian) Open in January of that year. He had also remade his physical appearance by cutting the iconic hair. Because of this makeover, there was heightened interest in this project internally at Nike. The two highest creative leads within Nike had a difference of opinion around the logo style and what aesthetic would best represent Andre. One director thought that Andre was still a rock-n-roll rebel at heart, while the other thought he was a rejuvenated man and that the logo should look sleek and ultramodern. At the beginning of the project, I was into the abstract paintings of Franz Kline. I just thought the idea behind that art, being fluid and dynamic, matched with the persona of Andre, himself. So I was leaning towards this bold, more abstract concept. I worked on both directions. We presented to Andre (and Brooke Shields), during the Lipton Championships, late at night in Key Biscayne in March ’95. He picked the rebel direction. I came back and worked on a new version. I drew the new ‘A’ on a paper towel to get that bleeding effect. It was intended to be somewhat abstract but, at the same time, be recognizable as a letter form.
DH: How often were you able to meet with Andre? What did he think of the logo and his footwear/apparel?
TA: For the logo project, I only met with him the one time when we presented to him in Key Biscayne. He gave great feedback, I went back to Beaverton, designed the revised version, and then I moved on. I believe the tennis apparel product designer, Devon Burt, presented the final version to him. There were no revisions requested, so I feel he must have been satisfied. When Andre came to campus last year to shoot the 30th Anniversary Promo for Challenge Court, I noticed he was wearing a custom pair of sneakers with the ‘A’ logo and that made me feel pretty good.
DH: Wilson Smith designed Andre’s sneakers during the mid to late ’90s – what was it like partnering with him?
TA: Wilson, of course, was an amazing designer for Nike. He is such a positive and energetic force of a person. Footwear and apparel designers had a mutual respect for each other’s work. There was some ideation at the beginning of the season but the real collaboration was mostly around color. Any graphic placement on footwear was usually done by Wilson himself. The only footwear that I worked on heavily that had a real visual impact, was the Air Tech Challenge IV.
DH: What was your all-time favorite project to work on while you were at Nike?
TA: I had an almost 37 year career at Nike. I was in apparel the whole time, so there were probably hundreds of projects but not many had the staying power of the early tennis work. My favorite has to be the Challenge Court line from ’90. I just really like the story of the ball logo coming from the ink cap. I like that the whole line looks like a tribute to art from the 80’s/90’s, while still holding up as something modern and unique. It looks like ’Nike’ to me.
DH: What are you up to these days?
TA: I’m freshly retired from Nike, so that’s a new feeling for me. I still have a passion for sports and intend to keep following my favorites. I paint for a creative outlet. It’s a hobby for now but I’m into it and I did quite a few canvases last year. I’m also a fairly new grandfather and that is very exciting.
Drew is the creator of @nikestories on Instagram. Growing up in the ’90s, Drew loved playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and even dabbled in cross country running. He ended up focusing on tennis in high school and helped lead his team to multiple state titles. His favorite athletes growing up include Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Andre Agassi, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He was smart enough to save all his old Eastbay catalogs from the ’90s and loves sharing them with the sneaker community. Follow him at @nikestories