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Why these students in Atlanta are studying sneaker design


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: Sneaker culture, a phenomenon that first took off in the 1980s with the release of the Air Jordan line has seen exponential growth in recent years, from a-list celebrities to the average consumers, sneakers have become a symbol of self-expression. We traveled to Atlanta recently we're a new program is helping students get their foot in the door of this lucrative market.

America's sneaker obsession is now an $80 billion industry, from sportswear to streetstyle, sneakers have evolved into cultural commodities. But there are few opportunities to learn the ins and outs of sneaker making. Savannah College of Art known as SCAD has developed a program to do just that. A sneaker Design Minor, the first of its kind in the U.S.

Roderick Thomas is a senior at SCAD Atlanta campus.

What's it takes to get a minor in sneaker design from SCAD?

Roderick Thomas, Student, SCAD Sneakers Design Program: A passion, you have to want to do this.

Geoff Bennett: Thomas created this hiking shoe last semester.

Roderick Thomas: Protect from trees and rocks.

Geoff Bennett: And says the design process is part research, part intuition.

Roderick Thomas: Is that you kind of know when you get the shoe that you like, it's like, all right, this is the one right here.

Geoff Bennett: SCAD piloted the program last spring, offering courses on sketching, rendering and even designing with virtual reality technology. Oh, skills that SCAD's President, Paula Wallace, says are essential for industry newcomers.

Paula Wallace, President, SCAD: SCAD sneaker design program really epitomizes the university's mission to prepare students for creative professions, to stay competitive brands need brilliant ideas executed with chic and sustainable design. You want to career designing kicks. You got it.

Geoff Bennett: Lauren Amos, says SCAD alum launched WishATL, a streetwear boutique nearly 20 years ago. Now, she's funding a scholarship to support students in the sneaker design program.

Lauren Amos, SCAD Alumni: This is just -- I mean, it hit all the right buttons to be able to help in any capacity and for there to be more diversity within the sneaker community. It's really important to me.

Geoff Bennett: SCAD alumni have landed jobs with major shoe brands, Nike, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance. And one alum is bringing what he's learned back to his alma mater.

Quintin Williams, Professor, SCAD Sneaker Design Program: When I got word that SCAD was launching his first accredited sneaker monitor here and they wanted somebody to lead it, they reached out and I automatically knew that oh, yeah, I'm definitely coming back. Because it's a passion of mine that I want to, you know, give the energy to the new students, the new generation of designers.

Geoff Bennett: Quintin Williams co-founded Q4, a footwear company that partners with professional athletes.

When you're reviewing your students designs, how do you separate the good from the great?

Quintin Williams: The easy answer that separator good design from bad design is the reason why. Why did you design it that way? What was the reason? And if you don't have an answer, that's not good design. Good design has purpose. Good design has functionality, and it makes the user experience better. So that's what we try to preach you.

Roderick Thomas: I didn't think it was going to be like that.

Geoff Bennett: For students like Thomas, mastering the why in sneaker design is only part of the programs appeal. It's also the mentorship from successful designers like Williams, he isn't sure he could find anywhere else.

Roderick Thomas: I didn't see a lot of people who looked like me doing it. I was like, OK, he's successful. He went to SCAD. I had to make it happen.

Geoff Bennett: SCAD hopes the program will create a pipeline for a new generation to continue making strides in an industry that isn't slowing down anytime soon.

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