words // Nick DePaula

For the fourth May in a row, Nike, Jordan and Converse’s Future Sole Design Competition is now live and accepting entries from the footwear designers of tomorrow. Maybe that includes you?

The design contest offers high school and college students a wealth of exposure and feedback, and former Jordan Brand Design Director D’Wayne Edwards was inspired to found Future Sole after looking back on his very own career path. “To support my sneaker habit, I was working at McDonald’s during my senior year of high school, and I remember seeing this ad in the paper for a sneaker design competition,” he says. “It was the smallest ad you could place in the L.A. Times – maybe a quarter of an inch by a quarter of an inch, and I found it. So I entered and I won.”

Winning that contest put him in touch with countless industry professionals and kickstarted his own career. Now more than twenty years later, Edwards recently left his job as Jordan Brand Design Director after a decade with the brand to focus full-time on his Footwear Design School, PENSOLE, continue to oversee the Future Sole competition and mentor the aspiring designers of tomorrow.

If you think you have what it takes and would like your sneaker design to be judged by Nike, Jordan and Converse designers, be sure to check out FutureSole.com for all official rules and entry instructions.

If you’re still curious about what exactly the competition entails, I caught up with D’Wayne Edwards to have him answer five things about this year’s Future Sole Design Competition.

1. When was Future Sole founded, and what are the goals of the contest?

“The Future Sole project started in 2008, and I was inspired by my experience of being a young kid and drawing sneakers in high school and wanting to have that as a profession. The great thing about it is that Nike is trying to provide a semi-pathway for kids to get closer to that goal. Being a high school student and being able to have Nike designers review your projects and review your work and give you advice on how to improve or what schools or even high schools to go to is a blessing. The concept of the contest is to identify high school kids that have a talent in design, and even if you may not win, we’ll still identify the kids that have talent and help them improve so maybe they can win the next year.”

2. For people that are new to the contest, what are some things that the judges will be looking for?

“The best thing to do would be to research what happened the last three years, so you could understand the level that the winner needs to be at. The other thing we’re looking for is hand-drawn work with good proportions, and not computerized entries. You need to come strong, because it’s only going to get tougher, and at the end of the day, it’s a fun contest.”

3. What restrictions are there to enter?

“The contest is now open to all ages. We took off the age restrictions, and as long as you’re registered in High School for the High School competition or you’re registered in College for the College competition, you can enter.”

The four Future Sole Design Competition categories are:

High School Students – Two shoe design categories – JORDAN & CONVERSE
College Students – one shoe design category – NIKE
International College Students – one shoe design category – JORDAN
High School and College Students – JORDAN T-Shirt Graphic Design

4. What else is new and different about Future Sole this year?

“The new wrinkle this year, is that the Finalists will all come here to Beaverton, Oregon and they’ll take the PENSOLE Footwear Design program at the University of Oregon Architecture school for three weeks to finish their final presentation. That’s unlike the previous years, where all of the finalists had virtual mentoring along the way, and they’ll come here for three weeks and get to be with their mentors from Nike daily. Another new feature is the addition of Converse and now International College students are now allowed to enter.”

5. What do the Future Sole Design Competition winners get?

“Finalists will get a Future Sole Gift Pack that includes a $500 Gift Card, T-shirt, Cap, Sketch Pad, Pencils, Books, Scholarship to attend PENSOLE Footwear Design classes at the University of Oregon Architecture branch here in Portland, and 3 college credits.

The Winners will have their designs posted on the Futuresole.com website as 2011 Future Sole Winners, and they also win $5,000 in computer equipment, including a Mac Powerbook and Wacom design tablet. Plus, they’re welcomed into our family of mentors to keep improving their skills.”