March 23–December 2, 2020

Registration Opens: January 20, 2020
Registration Closes: March 13, 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 that take place March – December 2020: 

Seminar A: Design Development (March 23rd – May 4, 2020) will take place online.

Seminar B: Master Class (June 21 – July 11, 2020) will take place in-person, hosted at the College of Design at NC State University.

Seminar C: Survey of Design Practice (September 9 – December 2, 2020) will take place 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.



  • 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 February 20th deadline.
  • March 13, 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.
  • March 16, 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 outweigh the seats we have available.
  • March 18, 2020: Applicants return acceptance agreement. If you fail to return by 12 midnight on 3/18/2020: your spot will be offered to a student on the wait-list.
  • March 23, 2020: Online Seminar A starts!
  • May 4, 2020: Seminar A concludes…out of the 60 students who participated, 30 will be invited to continue to Seminar B and Seminar C.
  • June 20, 2020: Seminar B students should arrive by 7 pm to check in to their housing at NCSU.
  • June 21, 2020: Seminar B starts!!! Welcome Brunch and logistics day!
  • July 10, 2020: Networking event + Seminar B FINAL PRESENTATIONS! *All students who attended Seminar A are invited to attend both events!
  • July 11, 2020: Studio clean up and Farewell Brunch, Check out of housing by 5 pm.
  • September 9, 2020: Online Seminar C starts!
  • December 2, 2020: Seminar C concludes.
  • January/February 2021: Informational Interviews.


Preliminary Schedule 

Mar 23 – May 4th > Seminar A: Design Development (online)
Up to 60 participants will be selected to attend. At the culmination of Seminar A, the top 30 students will be selected to advance to both Seminar B and C.
June 21 – July 10 >  Seminar B: Master Class (in-person): Master Class hosted by the Industrial Design department at NCSU.
Sept 9 -December 2nd > Survey of Design Practice (online)



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. 30 of the 60 students selected for Seminar A will advance to Seminar B.

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




This intensive is an in-person Master Class, taught by PENSOLE staff and hosted by the Industrial Design Department, College of Design at NC State University. Students will learn-by-doing, work on a product creation team. Students will focus on one of these three tracks: Color and Material Design, Footwear Design, or Functional Apparel/Accessory Design. Students work on individual and team projects over the course of the 3 weeks. This intensive will culminate with a networking event and a final presentation. There will be industry professionals, recruiters, professors, and the public in attendance. 

June – July 2020 | Meet 6 days a week; on average, expect to work roughly 60 hours per week. 




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 + anna@pensole.com for more information


The grant will cover tuition, housing, and food for this program. Students are required to fund their own transportation to NCSU for the 3-week Seminar B: Master Class intensive.


Seminar A: online

Seminar B: hosted by the Industrial Design Department, College of Design at NC State

Seminar C: online

Submission Requirements

For more practice, download our design templates below: 






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 a brand and select ONE product (footwear, apparel, or accessory) that was released within the last year. Submit your ORIGINAL creative product launch strategy for the product you chose. 

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
    • 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 and why?
      • What is an Opportunity for the brand as it relates to the product you chose. 
      • Who is the target audience (consumer)? Who is this product for?
      • 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 release look like/entail?
      • What happens for the brand and consumer after the product release?
  • 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 product launch. You must upload this to youtube and provide the link to be considered.