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Sneaker Guru D’Wayne Edwards On What Rome Could Teach Designers About Solving Problems

If you’ve got an engineer’s mind, Rome is a reminder to get back to basics.

courtesy D’Wayne Edwards

Welcome to Wanderlust, a series on Co.Design where some of our favorite designers share their secret picks and insider tips for the best design cities on the planet. Today, footwear designer D’Wayne Edwards of the Pensole Footwear Design Academy tells us why Rome is his favorite design city to hoof it.

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What’s your favorite design city, and why?

Rome! Okay, I know most would not think of Rome in this way. But my passion for design is more about thinking and problem-solving. If you ever visit Rome, you can’t help but walk away wondering how the hell they built these amazing structures without any modern equipment, so many years ago.

Whenever I see an object I always want to go on the mental journey with the creator to figure out how it was made. What was the problem? What was the innovation? How could it be better? So for my first trip to Rome, I tried to tap into the thought process of the engineers, architects, and designers who figured out how to build the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Amphitheater of El Djem,to name a few.

As a designer it is inspiring to see that someone had a vision that not only survived them, but is still admired by millions.

courtesy D’Wayne Edwards

Where do you like to stay when you’re there?

Nowhere in particular, except that I like staying at bed and breakfast spots to immerse myself into the culture of Rome. To me, the way the Italians value family and guests is unlike what you find in any other country. When you stay at a B&B, you are a part of the family, complete with those amazing meals. Sadly, it’s been a few years, and I can’t remember the name of the last one I stayed at.

Where do you like to eat?

Homemade Italian food is an experience, not just a meal. Between the meals at my B&B and some other local spots I discovered I gained a lot of weight in Rome! But it was worth every pound. If you go to Italy, talk to the locals about where they go. Pick five people to ask at random: if you hear the same spot mentioned twice, it’s going to be good.

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Flickr user Jenny

What design destinations do you visit?

I love the history of creation so I hit the usual tourist spots like the Colosseum, Pantheon, and the Amphitheater of El Djem because they are amazing but if you dig a little deeper and visit some places like the Palace of Diocletian, and the bath houses, temples, arches, and other arena of Rome. If you’re like me, you won’t be disappointed.

courtesy D’Wayne Edwards

Do you have any good tips for people going there interested in design?

Put your engineering cap on! Rome is going to blow your mind. Look at the attention to detail. The people who made Rome what it is did not use computers, CNC machines, laser cutters, and the other things we are spoiled with. This was honest creativity at its purest. Every time I have visited Rome, it is a reminder for me to get back to the basics, strip myself of technology, and focus on the craft.

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