A great example of interdisciplinary STEAM work (STEM, plus the Arts) is the industry of sneaker design. Passionate creatives are making names for themselves by employing a range of arts and sciences to make their visions a reality. What’s more, an increasing number of educational pathways are dedicated to overcoming access barriers for underrepresented students who want to pursue shoe design. In this article, we’ll investigate the influence of civic-minded entrepreneurs, and how the industry of sneaker design has become a burgeoning hotspot for top talent!
First, What is STEAM?
Most parents and students are familiar with the term STEM these days: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. After all, the categorization makes sense: as an area of study, these disciplines collaborate and innovate in exciting ways. What’s more, students with strong computational skills tend to excel in a cluster of these related courses.
In addition to the main STEM pillars, however, the most creative problem-solving often draws upon the arts. As a result, the term STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) is an increasingly popular synonym. After all, the benefits of adding arts to the docket are myriad. Students explore more creative solutions, consider the implications of their impacts, and also incorporate a necessary human element in the big picture.
Next, we’re learning about the STEAM education pathway to working in sneaker design. So if you know a teenager who calls themselves a “sneakerhead,” or is fashion-minded with a knack for creative pursuits, this could be a great opportunity to shine.
Job Sectors, Titles
There are several roles that are necessary for success in the sneaker business. Footwear industry magazine Sneaker Freaker reports, in fact, that there are three main categories: “making, selling, and/or communicating shoes.”
Based on our research, let’s take a closer look at some of the top sectors and titles in this fascinating field:
- Product Tester
- Product Development
- Innovation Engineer
- Communications Specialist
- Visual Merchandiser
- Brand Marketer
- Sales Assistant
- Corporate Retail
- Sneaker Writer
- And more…
Empowering Students to Follow Their Passions
Wondering what the industry will look like for students? Have no fear. According to the magazine Sneaker Freaker, the footwear industry is one of the “quickest growing fields in the world, with new jobs being created almost daily.”
Complex, a media center, shared a great resource about How to Become a Sneaker Designer for those interested in getting involved. Key tips in their guide include tips on how to gain experience and stand out from the crowd. Most importantly, they encourage students to believe in themselves.
“I can’t emphasize enough having a vision and a passion and continuing to stick with that,” Restivo says. “Knowing the right people, getting involved in the right education and internships, accepting positions that are a means to an end, being open-minded, as long as you are within the industry and vocal about what you want to do in your career, you will get there.”–Complex
To the Drawing Board…
- Originality in thinking, an sharp eye for unusual details, and the ability to generate ideas.
- Technical proficiency in drawing and illustration as well as various digital tools and software.
- Persistence in following through with your studies, plans, and designs despite obstacles in your way.
- Collaboration with others, ability to accept constructive criticism, and willingness to share and communicate ideas.
Wondering how to get started? The following traits are, reportedly, highly utilized in the realm of sneaker design—so you may want to find ways to demonstrate and practice these qualities in your daily life:
To kickstart your progress, consider taking a course or certificate program (more on these to follow). A good program will teach valuable skills and give students the opportunity to demonstrate their talent.
Another great way to get hands-on experience? Consider applying for an internship or entry-level position working at a sneaker or footwear company.
All these things also help build up a resume of your work experience. Nonetheless, the connections and insights gained might be the most valuable part: you can start developing a portfolio of your best work, as creative portfolios are a cornerstone of design careers.
Undergraduate Programs with Sneaker Design and Related Courses
PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design
“In 2010, Edwards founded PENSOLE, the first academy in the U.S. dedicated to footwear design, to provide talented young design students, regardless of socioeconomic background, an opportunity to learn from the industry’s best. Dr. Edwards founded PENSOLE in part because of how difficult it was for him to come through the industry and get started.”
ArtCenter College of Design: Sneaker Science Workshops
“ArtCenter College of Design will provide free Sneaker Science workshops to kids ages 11 through 18 to encourage them to pursue higher education and, ultimately careers in the creative economy.”
Fashion Institute of Technology: Sneaker Essentials Course
“Fashion Institute of Technology faculty, together with leaders from Complex and across the sneaker world, will teach you about the key areas, and related career opportunities in the ever-evolving sneaker industry. The program includes 7 online course modules, and related skill-building activities.”
Looking for more information?
It’s important to make informed decisions about your student’s future. The Empowerly Research team can help—whether you’d like summer programs in your interest area, suggestions for your college list, or other facts about the college application process. An expert college counselor takes the guesswork out of the process so you can focus on what matters most: supporting your student.