I’ve always been a fiend for industrial design. Reconciling this with my disdain for consumerism has always been difficult. They both coexist in my personality like an art-school version of Jekyll and Hyde. I’ve always felt that if a company is trying to separate consumers from their hard-earned ducats, we should ask as gently and creatively as possible. That said, I guess user experience is the perfect job for me. That or Public Television pledge drive host.
Before I digress further, let’s talk shoes.
No, really. This is relevant. You see, my inner Dr Jekyll hates athletic shoes. It’s a stuffy propriety thing. He only lets me wear them when I’m actually doing something athletic. My Mr. Hyde, however, loves their newfound versatility. There’s just something cool about all the style niches the shoe companies have discovered as they find their markets squeezed tighter.
One of the newest ideas is customizability. (is that a word? It feels funny when I type it.) Basically, they give us a slick web interface, a basic set of styles, and let us customize to our hearts’ content. Nothing like putting design in the hands of the people. My inner Karl Marx (yes, I have one of those, too) is very happy.
Vans wins for the sheer simplicity of their interface. It’s pretty easy to just click and see, but my Doc J was disappointed by the meager swatch selection.
Jekyll: “Yuck. No one said the revolution would be pretty.”
Hyde: “NYAAR! WANT SHOES!!”
Puma’s ambitious interface is a bit daunting at first. They call it the “Mongolian Shoe BBQ.” Cute, but Jekyll found the scrolling a bit much, and Hyde kept getting distracted by the cool irezumi tattoo on the hand.
Jekyll: “All this movement is making me queasy.”
Hyde: “WANT TATTOOS!!”
Ah, yes. What could be better than a one-of-a-kind pair of Chuck Taylors? The folks at Converse asked themselves this question, and served up the Cadillac of customization sites. It was so slick and easy that Jekyll and Hyde reached a rare consensus.
Jekyll: “Jolly good show, old chap!”
Hyde: “RAAR! SHOES! NOW!”
At this point, I wonder if the social networking revolution can possibly add anything to online shoe customization. I’m picturing some sort of gallery of customers with similar tastes: “These other folks also liked pink laces and green stitching.” Wouldn’t you like to see that? Yeah, me neither.
So, after all that, am I going to order any shoes? Nope. My inner Karl Marx won’t let me, but that’s a discussion for another day.