D'Wayne Edwards

D'Wayne Edwards
Founder of PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy
2020 IDSA Special Achievement Award Recipient

IDSA’s Special Achievement Award recognizes individuals, organizations, or special projects for their creativity, innovation, passion, advocacy, or achievement in the field of industrial design. D’Wayne Edwards and the organization he founded in 2010, Pensole Design Academy, received this honor on Sept. 16 during the virtual IDSA Awards ceremony for making a profound impact on the design community. With Pensole, Edwards has opened doors for many design students who may not have been able to pursue their dreams otherwise, and helped them to hone their skills, boost their confidence, and land jobs at some of the world’s top footwear companies.

Edwards has written that he founded Pensole in part to give talented young designers, regardless of socioeconomic background, the opportunity to learn from some of the industry’s best: “Growing up my dream was to become a footwear designer but there were no schools that taught that curriculum, and even if there had been, I couldn't have afforded to attend design school. I created Pensole to provide students the opportunity I never had.” Since he started Pensole, graduates of his classes have gone on to work at brands including New Balance, North Face, Under Armour, adidas, Stride Rite, Jordan, Nike, and more.

Edwards interest in footwear design began at an early age. When he was 17, he won a Reebok design competition, beating out professionals and college students nationwide. At 19, he became the youngest professional footwear designer in the industry. He became head footwear designer for L.A. Gear at 23, and eventually went to work for Skechers, Nike, and the Jordan Brand, becoming one of six designers to design an Air Jordan in the shoe brand’s first 23 years of existence. He has traveled to more than 50 countries and 40 U.S. states to design or manufacture footwear, and he holds over 50 design patents.

In giving back to aspiring footwear designers with Pensole, Edwards has produced a unique education model with passion and meaningful results. “D’Wayne identified that businesses were the ones benefiting from a well-trained pool of designers, so he organized Pensole around businesses paying the tuition for each and every student,” writes Michael DiTullo, IDSA. “I can’t think of another organization that has done more to improve inclusion in the footwear and sportswear industries by reaching out and connecting young talent directly with brands” In just a few years, Pensole has partnered with numerous universities and with retailers to run design workshops for high school students in their local areas. 

“D’Wayne’s philosophy of giving back and product as the vehicle for a deeper message still echoes in my mind every day,” writes Kaito Choy, an industrial designer and former Pensole Design Academy student. “His action-driven passion of providing education for the less fortunate has inspired a new wave of talent across the spectrum of design. Pensole Academy truly sets the gold standard of specialized design education.”