School for Experiential Education in Design (S.E.E.D) program
The S.E.E.D program is a two year paid footwear design program at adidas currently upskilling women from diverse backgrounds. Jessica set it up to act as a university alternative for BIPOC women towards a career in footwear design, creating access into the adidas brand and the sportswear industry. Formally based out of the adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm, the program is powered by IE (Industry Education) in partnership with Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design.
Designers learn through creating real go-to-market products within the constraints of a business, exposing them to the process, relationships, and navigation of a production creation calendar. They learn how to gather market insights, create product narratives, develop color palettes, design footwear, apparel, graphics and accessory collections that resonate with their target consumers.
The goal of the program is to pipeline candidates into full time jobs by the end of the two years, prepped to thrive in their careers and promote greater diversity within the industry. When products are being designed for, and used by, such a wide variety of people, there is a need for greater representation within the product life cycle – especially at the design stage. This diversity makes for an overall better product, as a wider range of experiences, ideas, and outlooks have informed the final product.
Cheresse’s path into design leadership
Cheresse Thornhill-Goldson took the traditional pathway to becoming a designer and design leader; she was lucky enough to study at a high school that specialized in industrial design, nurturing her talent from a young age. She continued to study industrial design at college in Michigan, where out of college she landed a job designing footwear for athletes at Nike, working her way to becoming the Footwear Design Lead of Nike Emerging Markets.
Now at adidas, she looks back on her time in the industry, and realizes she was often the only woman and person of color on a design team. Very few BIPOC women have access to the education that she did, which is the current goal of S.E.E.D – to bridge that gap and provide more opportunity and experience in footwear design.
Building communication skills
Immersing S.E.E.D candidates into a real footwear design environment provides the relevant work experience of communicating designs, opinions and ideas. All designers need to build skills of communication with their stakeholders, as it forms such a crucial part of their work days and projects.
Cheresse and Jessica agree that there needs to be more sharing and joint ownership across marketing, design and development, and their candidates in the S.E.E.D program are in the perfect position to build this into the future of footwear design – which starts with getting others on board: they are taught how to get counterparts to buy into ideas, so they can get more traction behind their point of view and having their voice heard. This is not only in the stories they tell and having the confidence to tell the stories behind their designs, but also by providing insight that is backed by facts.
One of the most necessary design tools to increase communication and collaboration from the beginning is process: involving everyone at all stages. For instance, developers should be in a position to support design ideas with suggested tools and methods, making designs more feasible earlier on and increasing collaboration in a workflow.