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Shawn Williams

Associate Footwear Designer, Vans

Shawn Williams

As a former social worker and graduate of Pensole Design Academy, Shawn William’s journey can certainly be described as untraditional. Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, He was exposed to various types of art early in his childhood. His passion for art followed him throughout his life and crafted a pathway into design. Now residing in Southern California, as a Footwear Designer for Vans, He seeks to lay the groundwork to elevate the next generation of designers.

A Coalition Approach to Diversifying the Design Industry


August 24, 2023

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM


Shawn Williams had an unlikely path to his current role of Associate Footwear Designer at Vans. As a child and teen, he loved to draw (particularly shoes) but was unaware of a pathway into design which eventually led to his journey into the social work field as a social worker. During the pandemic, he began to draw again and searched for a way to attain a formalized education. He learned about the Pensole Design Academy and, against the odds, was accepted, which led to his current position at Vans.

Knowing how improbable his path to becoming a professional designer is for historically excluded youth, Shawn is passionate about opening up opportunities for Black and Brown youth. It’s one of the reasons he joined the Diversify by Design (DxD) coalition’s Advisory Council.

In addition to sharing his journey, he will speak to how the coalition is moving the needle on creating a racially equitable and just industry. And share a few ways for the audience to get involved in DxD.

The audience will learn. . .

1. The historic and systemic barriers to a racially equitable and just design industry, and why so little has changed over time.
2. Why Shawn's story is part of the solution
3. How a coalition approach of partners and individuals, committed to the long term goal of catalyzing racial justice and equity in the design profession, are starting to create change.
4. How IDSA members and designer at large can get involved in DxD

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