Last week, AIGA members had the privilege of hearing from D’Wayne Edwards, former footwear design director of Jordan at Nike Inc. Edwards spoke at our AIGA “Speaks” event on Thursday, May 14th and offered a workshop that was open to professionals and students on Friday afternoon. I was unable to make it to the “Speaks” event but was very excited to come to the workshop on Friday. D’wayne opened up the workshop by thanking everyone for coming and mentioned that he had the lovely opportunity to explore some of what our beautiful city had to offer. Edwards jokingly mentioned that he may go into a food coma during the workshop because of the delicious lunch he got to enjoy at a local OTR, hotspot The Eagle (Which he loved!). Edwards began by talking about the design process that is used when designing footwear and told the attendees to please ask questions throughout his presentation. During the first half of the workshop, D’wayne took everyone on a journey of how he designed the Jordan 22 and broke down his entire process. The attendees took it very seriously that Edwards asked them to chime in with questions and many people offered up some great ones! Edwards challenged the participants by saying that every single aspect of our design choices have to be grounded in deep research and must have legitimate reasoning, because everyone wants to be a designer, yet they do not want to go through the intense process needed to get there.
The second part of the workshop was a hands on exercise. Edwards had all of the attendees move their seats to the middle of the room around a table where Edwards was sitting. All attendees were given some paper, a No. 2 pencil and were asked to take off their left sneaker. If a person was not wearing a sneaker, they were asked to find an image of one on their smartphones. Edwards then had the participants draw their shoe. As the participants were working, Edwards took some time to tell stories, encourage and impart some of his wisdom. Edwards then continued to challenge everyone to pursue their dreams, ambitions and never give up because of adversity. He is a great example that no matter what demographic, background or social economic situation you are in, you can rise above it all with the desire to succeed.
One of my favorite moments was when Edwards was talking to an attendee from Tennessee, who felt like he was stuck where he was in his life and unable to pursue his dreams of designing shoes. Edwards then told that person that it was the attendee himself who was limiting his ability to succeed. In that moment, Edwards offered the attendee admission to attend his design academy, Pensole, on the spot. The attendee was absolutely in shock! Wouldn’t we all be!? Edwards proceeded to say “I have done my part, now you have to do yours and come up to Portland”.
Edwards closed the workshop by asking everyone to stick around for conversation and questions. As both a young professional and student, I really appreciated that Edwards allowed for us to learn from his wisdom and question his process in such an intimate setting. Sadly, you don’t always have the opportunity to meet someone with such prestige and gravitas that is as humble and kind as D’wayne Edwards. His authentic personality encouraged me that there are still phenomenal world-changers literally changing the world through their gifts and talents. This is ‘Bigger than Sneakers.’
By Emmanuel de Roquette
Art Academy of Cincinnati Student