April 13–December 2, 2020

Registration Opens: January 20, 2020
Registration Closes: April 3, 2020


PENSOLE Academy’s L.E.A.D. by Design (Leaders Emerge After Direction) is a new inclusive design-education opportunity. Sponsored in part by The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, we are working with strategic educational partners at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and North Carolina State University to help propel interested students of color and minorities into the Product Creation Industry.

L.E.A.D. by Design Seminar Series consists of coursework combining both online and in-person learning; designed to work in parallel with the students’ current educational career. Our goal is to offer interested students the ability to excel through knowledge and skills specific to the Industry: focusing on footwear design, color & material design, functional apparel and accessory design, and product marketing. The L.E.A.D. by Design Seminar Series is open to students of color/minorities who have graduated within the last 2 years.


This program will be comprised of 3 seminars (now, all online) that take place May – December 2020: 

May 4th – June 8th, 2020 | Seminar A: Design Development (Individual Projects), online.

Due to COVID-19, we will postpone this until Summer 2021. | Seminar B: Master Class (Team Projects), in-person. 

  • Y1 Cohort will join with Y2 Cohort for the 3-week in-person seminar, hosted at NC State University
  • We know that development takes effort, and we will be providing challenges and exercises for students to actively be working on skill-building from June 8th – September 8th, 2020, as well as January – June 2021.  

September 8th – December 2, 2020 | Seminar C: Survey of Design Practice (Personal Branding Projects), online.

Please explore expandable tabs below for more detailed information on each seminar. 

Since 2010, we have worked with and placed over 475 students at these brands:

Program Information

About & Key Dates

Program Overview:

PENSOLE Academy’s L.E.A.D. by DESIGN program offers non-traditional sourcing of talent for the industry by disrupting the notion that students will graduate from a four-year university program with adequate on-the-ground content knowledge and execution talent to be competitive in the already small pool of opportunities. Layer on the reality that Black and Brown college go-ers have even fewer exposure, training and mentoring opportunities pre-college, it is no wonder the footwear industry has been underrepresented by a racially diverse workforce. This program will offer a much-needed supplement to a traditional 4-year education without losing the credentials that are so necessary to enter any competitive industry.


The Kenan Charitable Trust Foundation:

We have been awarded a grant from The Kenan Charitable Trust Foundation to initiate this program. Creating strategic partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and NC State, PENSOLE will educate through hands-on instruction, mentorship, and networking. By tangibly introducing careers in the 75-Billion, dollar footwear industry, we are developing a new pool of diverse, trained talent. Brands will benefit from partnering with PENSOLE Academy to assist with the growth of their company by employing people that look like those who purchase their products.


*Updated* KEY DATES: 

  • January 20, 2020: Program application opens! Please read and follow the link to apply. Get to work, we can’t wait to see what you are going to design!
  • January 31, 2020: For those students who attended a PENSOLE Information Workshop at your school, this is the deadline to email jean@pensole.com your pre-submission design (a part of the application requirement) for a critique from a PENSOLE staff member, to receive feedback prior to your final design submission by the application close date.
  • March 13, 2020: Old deadline prior to COVID-19. We have decided to do a soft deadline extension to a select number of students who 1) started, but were unable to finish the application and 2) students targeted for the Product Marketing track. This is by invitation only. 
  • Friday, April 3rd, 2020: Application closes! We look forward to seeing your submission! You must complete all 3 forms in the application, along with submitting your design for the track that you wish to attend. You can submit designs for all 3 tracks, but you will be selected for only one track. Color + Material Design, Footwear Design, and/or Functional Apparel + Accessory Design.
  • Monday, April 6th, 2020: Applicants contacted for status. Remember, please continue to apply next year for L.E.A.D. or for other programs we offer, as the number of applicants that we receive always outweighs the seats we have available.
  • Tuesday, April 7th, 2020: Applicants return acceptance agreement. If you fail to return by 12 midnight on 4/7/2020: your spot will be offered to a student on the waitlist.
  • Wednesday, April 8th, 2020: If Waitlisted (and there is now space), you will be contacted and you will need to respond with signed agreements within 24-hours. If you fail to return by 12 midnight on  Thursday, April 9th, 2020, you have forfeited your seat.
  • Friday, April 10th, 2020: Schedules for online class times will be solidified + confirmed with all students.
  • Week of April 13th, 2020: Seminar A starts! This 6-week online seminar runs through May 18th, 2020. Focus: Personal Projects.
  • May 18th, 2020: Seminar A concludes…out of the 80 students who participated, 40 will be invited to continue to Seminar B and Seminar C.
  • Week of June 1st, 2020: Seminar B starts! This 7-week online seminar runs through July 17th, 2020. Focus: Team Projects.
  • Friday, July 24th: Seminar B feedback given and next steps announced by PENSOLE Staff + Founders.
  • Week of Tuesday, September 6th: Seminar C starts! This 12-week online seminar runs through December 2nd, 2020. Focus: Personal Branding Projects.
  • December 2, 2020: Informational Interviews Scheduled.
  • January/February 2021: Informational Interviews.


Preliminary Schedule 

April 13th – May 18th > Seminar A: Design Development (online)
Up to 80 participants will be selected to attend. At the culmination of Seminar A, the top 40 students will be selected to advance to both Seminar B and C.
June 1st – July 17th >  Seminar B: Master Class (*now* online): 40 of the 80 students from Seminar A will advance to Seminar B, where we focus on Team Projects.
September 8th – December 2nd > Survey of Design Practice (online) Students will work on Personal Branding projects as the last in the seminar series, adding all 3 projects to their new online portfolio. Students will have Informational Interviews scheduled for January and February 2021, with current industry designers.


Sixty selected students will work online for Seminar A. Students will fine-tune their submission designs with guidance from PENSOLE staff through critiques and demos that emphasize the foundations of design, creative thinking, and storytelling. Providing student designers with professional and personal growth. This program is designed to prep the students for Seminar B, our master class, while not interfering with their current workload at their primary educational institutions. 40 of the 80 students selected for Seminar A will advance to Seminar B.

April-May 2020 | Meet 1 day a week; max 3 hours time commitment per week (lecture + homework). 



SEMINAR B | MASTER CLASS (*now* online)

Students will ‘learn-by-doing’ work on a product creation team. Students will focus on one of the four tracks: Color and Material Design, Footwear Design, Functional Apparel/Accessory Design or Product Marketing. Students work on individual and team projects over the course of the 7 weeks. This intensive will culminate a final presentation. 

June – July 2020 | (*now) Meet 1 day a week; max 3-6 hours time commitment per week (lecture + homework). 




Looking to Designers of Color throughout history as precedents for our coursework, the students further their exploration in design foundations. Through creative inquiry and application, students will design + develop business cards, resumes, and portfolios for themselves. The personal and professional growth of the student designer will prepare them for internship opportunities or entry-level jobs in the industry. All students who finish will have 2 guaranteed informational interviews with PENSOLE alumni currently working in the industry. 

September – December 2020 | Meet 1 day a week; max 3 hours of work and lecture time commitment per week. 

Please email jean@pensole.com or shaneille@pensole.com for more information


The grant will cover tuition for this program. Students are required to have Professional and Persona Champions who will help encourage them in this journey. The biggest cost to students is the time and effort that they are willing to put into their progress through this program.


Seminar A: online

Seminar B: *now* online

Seminar C: online

Submission Requirements


The application consists of 3 forms and design submission. You must complete all of these steps to fully submit and be considered for the program. *Please note, applicants can apply for all 3 design tracks, but will only be admitted in one. If interested, please follow DSRs (see below) for each design track you wish to be considered for. Upload the DSRs in the Slideroom Application.


Color and Material Design 

Submit an original mood board (one page). Your board must clearly and effectively communicate a mood through a choice of colors and composition. Your board must demonstrate that you can follow instructions and guidelines.


Contact info centered at the bottom of the board. (First+Last Name, Email, Academic Status, Educational Institution or Current Employment)

  • Board size: 8.5” x11” (tiled page layouts are ok in order of content requested below) Format: PDF or 300 DPI JPG *
  • Build a creative point of view with a color + mood board layout that communicates the content requested below

Content Objective: Shows an understanding of creating color/material + finishes in a storytelling format that showcases knowledge of tactility in design.


  • Performance/Sport *Do not use footwear designs in your work
  • Lifestyle or Emerging Industry


  • PERFORMANCE EXAMPLE – Anna Smith, is inspired by art museums in her NY backyard. I created a color + material palette filled with the textures’ colors that surround her. She strives for sustainable fibers and natural dyes in her choices, but won’t sacrifice fashion.


  • Inspiration images
  • CMF swatches
  • Research backup


Communicate point of view of the industry that inspired you.

See examples of layouts and content at the following link: http://www.thehangersandlasts.com/cmdivas



Submit one hand-sketch of an original design in black and white or color.

  • No computer sketching.
  • Multiple views are optional.

See an example of a sketch & layout at the following link: Footwear Submission


Functional Apparel & Accessories Design  

Submit the following:

  • Head-To-Toe Outfit (male or female) in black/white or color; hand sketch or digital sketch
  • The layout must include call-outs of the innovative design features, materials, and construction details
  • Note how the design features enhance or protect the athlete or consumer.
  • Applicant’s contact info (name + email + phone)
  • 8.5” x 11” layout

Be Original.

See examples of sketch & layouts at the following link: https://www.pinterest.com/THEFAASTUDIO/apparel-sketch-examples/


Product Marketing

Choose ONE of the following brands: 

  1. NIKE

Select ONE product (footwear, apparel, or accessory) that was released by the brand you chose. Submit your ORIGINAL creative marketing strategy for the product that you chose. Please consider the following question: If your brand was to re-launch this product or continue marketing this product in 2020 what would your campaign be? 

You must submit a 3 PAGE PDF with the following information: 

      • Contact information – Placed on the bottom left corner of each page. 
        • First and last name, email address, Your country of residence, Academic Status 
        • Accepted size – letter 
        • Accepted formatting – PDF only
      • Your PDF must verbally and visually communicate the following information:
        • What is the brand and product you chose? When was it originally released?
        • What is an Opportunity (new or existing) for the brand as it relates to the product you chose. What makes this product different? (Please consider the year that the original product was released and tell us how this product will be relevant in 2020). 
        • Who is the target audience (consumer)? Who is this product for? You must include a 5-8 sentence consumer narrative with imagery that addresses the following: 
          • Name, Age, Gender, ethnic background 
          • Location: Where do they live aka city, state, country?
          • Hobbies or Interests
          • Occupation or Income
          • How do they spend their money?
          • What specific brands are in their closet?
          • What are 3-5 things that influence your consumer today? 
          • What are your consumers’ future aspirations?
        • Where do you get the product? How much? How many are released?
        • How will you get the product to the target audience? What does the product re-launch look like/entail? What is the message behind your campaign?  
        • What happens for the brand and consumer after the new campaign or product re-launch?
      • Imagery
        • You must include an image of the product you chose and imagery to convey who the consumer is. Do not overdo it! Imagery is MANDATORY. 
      • Composition/Layout
        • Must showcase relevance and an original point of view.
      • Video
        • Submit a 30-50 second elevator pitch of your marketing strategy.  You must upload this to youtube and provide the link to be considered. 

 See an example marketing strategy HERE 


For more practice, download our design templates below: