Kitchen Table Conversation: Diversity in Design with MillerKnoll

Thursday, Mar 24, 2022
12:00 pm — 1:00 pm

Inspired by Carrie Mae Weems’ photo narrative series of the same name, The Kitchen Table Conversations are a three-part series of community programs intended to spark conversations surrounding identity, culture, and experience. For each event, GRAM has paired with a socially-focused local organization to feature presentations and facilitate discussions based on themes explored in Weems’ work.

Join GRAM for the first installment in the series, featuring a conversation between prolific designer and President of Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design, Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, and Diversity in Design Collaborative’s Senior Manager, Alexis Brunkow. During their talk, the two will discuss their design backgrounds and career trajectories, as well as their shared focus on expanding and improving the design field for Black creatives.

To ensure community access to these discussions and the accompanying exhibition, the series will be free to the public as part of Meijer Free Days.

Please note: All guests ages 5+ must present proof of vaccination to attend, and face masks are required while in the auditorium for ages 2+ when not actively eating or drinking.


For more information, contact Deputy Director of Art, Learning, and Engagement Christopher Bruce at

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About the Speakers

    For more than 17 years, Alexis has held a multitude of roles within the design and architecture industry, spanning editorial writing, marketing, consulting and client relations. Currently, Alexis serves as Senior Manager at the Diversity in Design (DID) Collaborative, which was initiated by MillerKnoll in 2021 to foster systemic change by increasing diversity and improving conditions for Black creatives across the design industry. DID is a group of companies united by a common belief in the critical role that diversity plays in creating strong, impactful businesses and innovations in the design world and beyond. Alexis lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two dogs, and is passionate about sustainability, supporting local businesses, and empowering youth.

    D’Wayne Edwards, with no formal education, started his career in 1989 at the age of 19 as an entry-level footwear designer for LA Gear. Over the course of his career — which now spans over three decades — he has received numerous honors and awards in business and design, ranging from the Red Dot award, Mercedes Benz Fashion Award (3‑time winner), Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, Business Insider 100 People Transforming Business, to the Presidential Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama.

    As a designer, Dr. Edwards has accumulated more than 50 patents and designed more than 500 footwear styles for premier entertainers such as Tupac, Notorious B.I.G, Dre, Snoop Dog and Nas. His designs have been worn in six different Olympics, and have graced all MLB, NFL and NBA stadiums by athletes such as Derek Jeter, Carmelo Anthony and Michael Jordan.

    In 2010, Edwards began his journey as an educator by establishing PENSOLE, the first academy in the U.S. dedicated to footwear design.

    PENSOLE has quickly become the preeminent footwear design school in the world by securing partnerships with the industry’s top footwear brands and retailers. PENSOLE has placed more than 600 former alums in positions working professionally for some of today’s top brands: Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Brooks, Vans, Puma, Timberland, The North Face, JORDAN, Zenga, and others globally.

    As an educator, Dr. Edwards has taught and lectured at some of the première schools in the world from ArtCenter in Pasadena, CA; Parsons in New York; MIT in Boston, MA; Kolding Design School in Kolding Denmark; Harvard in Boston, MA. He also was a featured speaker at the Clinton Global Conference.

    In 2019, ArtCenter College of Design recognized his career as a designer and educator by awarding him an Honorary Doctorate degree making him the fourth person in ArtCenter’s 90-year history to receive this honor.

    Dr. Edwards is known by his peers as one of the leading experts on diversity in design. He has created a network of over 600 black and brown designers across all design industries through the creation of an annual conference called the African American Footwear Forum. His work around diversity has led to honors such as the Footwear News Icon award, IDSA Special Achievement Award, Footwear Plus Lifetime Achievement Award and recognition as one of the Most Influential People in the Sneaker industry by COMPLEX.

    Recently, Dr. Edwards achieved a personal career goal of opening the first Black-owned footwear factory in the United States to provide aspiring Black designers an opportunity to establish their own brands. By far the most meaningful work of his career, though, is becoming the President of the first design-focused HBCU to reopen: Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design in Detroit, MI.

    Since 1989, Dr. D’Wayne Edwards’ mission has been to leave the industry better than when he entered it and to make the conversation around diversity, no longer a conversation.

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