Stefan Van Dorn

The Success of Converse – Part 2

As of 1949, the shape of the shoe had remained the same but in 1957 the low-cut version was introduced. The original was designed for the specific need of a basketball shoe, now that Converse was a success in the basketball world and the public, they changed their shape just slightly to appeal to a wider variety of people with the more casual looking low-cut silhouette. Converse sat at the height of the sneaker world for years after this point with an 80% stake in the entire sneaker industry. Unfortunately, along with the death of Chuck Taylor in 1969, the company began to fall with its increasingly popular rival companies. Nike and other upcoming brands of the time were much more expensive because of their performance-based design and technology they were putting into their sneakers. Big-time basketball stars soon began lacing up in Nikes and leaving their Chucks at home. (Foreman)

The shape of the low-top silhouette was a big part of Converse’s direction and success. The company designed a shoe to a specific unmet need, a shoe for basketball players, the original high-top style was supportive and perfect for the game. The optional leather or canvas upper was the ideal durability and support the shoe needed for the rough sport of basketball (Foreman).

With the addition of the low-cut, the shoe saw its first casual design, even more so spreading the shoe out into the public market. In the late 70s when the shoe began to lose professional popularity, they focused on the youth and this is when they began adding multitudes of colors and patterns, with the hopes of appealing more to the young generation, hippies, and rock styles. (“The History of the Converse All Star”)

Another aspect of a design that is important to the success of a product is the colors. Donald Norman, a researcher, professor, and author who is the director of The Design Lab at the University of California San Diego writes in his book, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, talks about his experience with how people perceive color and how it makes them feel. Take water bottles for example, “Perrier water, has become so well known that the shape and its green color are the brand” (62). Similarly, the TyNant bottle, is “such a pleasant shape coupled with its deep, cobalt blue color that people save the empty ones to use as vases” (62). This shows how crucial color is to a product. Perrier’s water bottle color is iconic and recognized right away by people all over. If the color was an unsatisfying shade, then it may not have become such a success as it has. “Humans select for size, color, and appearance, and what you are biologically disposed to think of as attractive derives from these considerations” (66). It is in our DNA to like or to dislike things based on their appearance. This is evident in all of our personal lives, so it makes sense that it correlates to the colors of a specific product. 

In a scientific article, Yan-pu Yang and Xing Tian go into an in-depth view of colors’ role in “shaping brand(s) style” and how it “affect(s) users’ purchase decision(s)” (1). Yang and Tian bring up the important point of how “color design schemes may vary due to (a person’s) cognition differences” (1). Together in their research, they decided to engage with people using IGA’s or integrative genetic algorithms to find the best way of discovering a consumer’s perception of the color of a product. To go about this process, they combined the subjects’ “cognition noise” with the “cognition phase”, “intermediate phase”, and “fatigue phase” to see what they could discover (1) After the completion of Yang and Tians’ study, they discovered a few different things. One that “providing users with multitude product color schemes will help identify users’ preference” (9). Due to the known difficulties presented by cognition differences and uncertainty in users, the IGA approach can be an effective way of helping designers determine what best color will resonate with the people, through convergence speed and evolution efficiency (9). In other words, if a company uses these IGA’s in their design process, it is possible that they can have a better understanding of customers’ preferences before they even create the product and get it into the market. This could be a useful tool on top of the widely used color theories and practices already in place.  

How did Converse utilize color in the design strategies of the Chuck Taylor shoe? The shoe began in an all-black canvas and an all brown canvas with the option of leather instead of the brown canvas (“The History of the Converse All Star”). These colors would be described by some as boring but for the time, the colors suited the uniforms of the players and the earthy styles of the early 1900’s. 

(See Part 3 for More)

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