PepsiCo and Pensole Lewis College Kick-off Partnership To Increase Diversity in Design with Student Lounge Design Program

Today, PepsiCo and Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design celebrate the first step in their three-year partnership to develop Black designers and increase representation in the design industry. PepsiCo is revealing the work from its inaugural program at Pensole Lewis, the first and only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) dedicated to design, which tasked students to create a new student lounge on campus. Designers from the PepsiCo Design & Innovation team and MillerKnoll mentored Pensole Lewis students through the design process, a precursor to how PepsiCo will invest in bringing the winning concept to life this summer with support from MillerKnoll. In addition, PepsiCo teamed up with NBA star Russell Westbrook, who was inspired by the program and shares its mission to create opportunities for the community, to further amplify the effort and unveil the completed lounge on campus.

“Education has always been a cause I’ve been passionate about. I’m proud to partner with PepsiCo to give Pensole Lewis students the recognition they deserve for their hard work and creativity,” said Westbrook, who also shared a congratulatory pre-recorded message with students.

With studies showing that Black designers account for only 3% of the industry1, PepsiCo and Pensole Lewis’s larger partnership aims to address the diversity gap by providing students access to invaluable resources. The program looks to create opportunities for students through mentoring with PepsiCo professionals, one-of-a-kind apprenticeships, and creating a pipeline for job recruitment.

Pensole Lewis students Rodney Banks and Angel Buckens were selected for their winning design for the Pepsi Stronger Together Relax and Refresh Lounge. Guided by the knowledge and experience of PepsiCo and MillerKnoll designers throughout the process, students were assessed for how the space embodied key elements that united design principles and functional elements including branding, vending equipment, workstations, furniture from the MillerKnoll collective of brands, and more. The lounge space will be dedicated to a close friend and mentor of Pensole Lewis Founder Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, Author Kevin Carroll, who helped to inspire Dr. Edwards to start the Pensole brand.

“Our partnership with Pensole Lewis is about providing resources to help address the barriers that specifically hinder Black talent from entering a career in design. By giving students access to some of the industry’s best designers at PepsiCo, we can offer valuable resources and mentorship for the next generation of creatives,” said Mauro Porcini, SVP and Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo. “To drive innovation, we must create a pipeline for more diverse perspectives and backgrounds to enter the design field. Our hope is that through education, inspiration, and recruitment, PepsiCo’s program with Pensole Lewis will champion that.”

Porcini was one of several mentors sharing their feedback on students’ final lounge concepts, joined by Pensole Lewis Founder Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, a former JORDAN Brand Footwear Design Director spearheading Pensole Lewis’s efforts to expand diversity in the industry; MillerKnoll SVP of Global Real Estate, Architecture and Development Matthew Stares, an executive at one of the world’s most renowned collective of design brands that is also providing product for the lounge; and radio personality Angela Yee, who has brought her own developed eye for design to Detroit real estate.

“In developing this program, PepsiCo made it clear they shared Pensole Lewis’s mission in making the design field more accessible by creating more opportunities within it,” said Dr. D’Wayne Edwards. “We’ve seen the success that comes with opening students’ eyes to new career paths in the industry and unlocking more ways they can apply their talents. With programs backed by partners that have the scale and breadth of PepsiCo and MillerKnoll, we can push the industry forward by developing, training, and shaping the next generation of talented Black designers.”

In addition, PepsiCo also awarded design apprenticeships to Rodney and Angel. The students will participate in 10-week summer apprenticeships with the PepsiCo Design & Innovation team in New York City and gain invaluable work experience collaborating across different design disciplines and design projects through concept development, refinement, and execution.

This partnership is in support of PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey, a more than $400 million investment over five years, to increase Black representation at PepsiCo, support Black-owned businesses, and create economic opportunities in those communities.

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