Skip to main content

Demand for Sneaker Design Knowledge Ramps up and Top Schools Are Adding New Programs in Response


Sneakers are having a major moment in the footwear industry and leading design schools are increasing career opportunities in sneaker design as demand for it grows.

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and global lifestyle brand Complex recently announced the launch of Sneaker Essentials, an online program that introduces the next generation of sneaker designers to career paths within the $55 billion global sneaker industry.

The first of its kind program for FIT will be offered through the school’s Center for Continuing and Professional Studies, and is taught completely online. It comprises of a six-course curriculum, with more than 30 hours of instruction, designed and led by FIT faculty, Complex editors and hosts and industry experts, including contributors from Nike, Adidas and numerous sneaker industry influencers.

The courses expose students to all aspects of the sneaker industry, allowing them to explore everything from design and manufacturing, to marketing, merchandising, media and retail. Students who successfully complete the program will receive a certificate of completion from FIT.

“The sneaker industry today is booming on a global scale, with the market driven by millennial demand,” said Sarah Mullins, chair of the Accessories Design program at FIT. “This program is designed to translate that passion for sneakers into real-world knowledge and skills that open doors to meaningful career pathways. And FIT’s outstanding Accessories Design program is extremely well positioned to lead the next generation into the industry.”

Sneaker Essentials was developed by Qubed Education, a New York-based tech startup that partners with top universities and major companies to create career discovery courses connected to fast-growing industries, including fashion, beauty and sports. The first Sneaker Essentials students will be admitted in April.

Related Stories

Pensole Footwear Design Academy has also announced an online opportunity for aspiring sneaker designers. Last week the design school revealed the kickoff and schedule for the fourth annual 2018 World Sneaker Championship, which, according to Pensole founder D’Wayne Edwards, is powered by Foot Locker.

Pensole’s single-elimination, all-or-nothing global competition is an online event with $130,000 in cash and prizes. A few of the winning designs will also be produced and sold by Foot Locker outlets worldwide.

“Our goal has always been to identify and develop the next generation of great sneaker designers,” Edwards said. “In three years we have been able to do that. And WSC has grown to be Pensole’s most celebrated and anticipated competition each year, worldwide.”

The competition begins April 8, with talented designers from around the world battling head-to-head. Viewers vote online for designers to advance from one round to the other.

Pensole and Foot Locker will broadcast the winners of each round from the top 64 down to the top eight weekly on Facebook Live.

This year, the top four designers will also challenge each other face-to-face in front of a live audience at the Pensole school in Portland, Oregon, for an in-person “battle royal.” The last designer standing will become The World Sneaker Champion, crowned with his or her championship belt, on the last day of the event.