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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Teaching to the Future


A few months ago, Van Weinmann '23 (photographed far right) entered a high school sneaker design competition hosted by Pensole Design Academy, which specializes in prototyping and concept-making functional footwear and apparel, and was selected as one of nine finalists in the country to present his design in Portland, Oregon. Through new programming and partnerships, Pensole has launched a competition series and a variety of opportunities designed to reach high school students interested in exploring design in order to find the next generation of shoe designers. Working with a mentor from Pensole for five weeks, Van designed a brand new lifestyle sneaker that was inspired by Cleveland. "I really love sneakers and my passion is art," says Van. "This competition was a way to combine my interests in design as well as footwear. I think the culture around footwear is so interesting and I love to subtly show off designs and art on your feet." Through his five-week program, Van learned to expand his artwork from concept sketches into proportional design drawings that could be realistically designed and created into a final product.

After multiple drawings and revisions, Van honed in on the competition's theme of designing a sneaker inspired by your city or state and intentionally designed a shoe that would express Cleveland's artsy and architectural influence. "I focused on a more concentrated theme of revitalizing the city with art, which I feel is an important part of Cleveland's current identity," says Van. "I used structural elements from iconic buildings like the West Side Market and the Terminal Tower, but also added flavor with the use of different colors. The shoe's arcs and structure mimic the city's architecture and the red accents represent the surge of the arts in Cleveland. I think my design was creative and different enough and could be a sneaker you would want to buy and find in stores. Tying in the inspiration of Cleveland and learning new design processes were the most challenging elements of this process but they pushed my creativity."

After presenting his design as a competition finalist in Portland, Van recounted his biggest takeaways from this experience. "In Portland, I got to meet and befriend other designers and people in the footwear design industry and saw firsthand the process of designing and creating a sneaker," says Van. "I was able to create a network of people that I can now contact for advice and recommendations in my future design endeavors too. The trip was amazing and I loved being around students my age and having the opportunity to bounce creative ideas off of other people interested in design like me."

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