Triumph of Taste

The subject of aesthetics is one of changing paradigms and endless intrigue. In objects, just as with subjects, the meaning of “beautiful” has evolved continuously with time. But one decision spares debate: given two products which only differ in aesthetics, the one we consider more beautiful will always grab more attention and will remain.

The late Steve Jobs is known to have been very keen on “taste.” Microsoft has absolutely no taste, he said, going on to explain that by this he meant that “they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their product.” Great products, he said, were a “triumph of taste.” The exquisite taste of Jobs himself has long been a matter of doctrine in the tech world. Kevin Kelly’s remarks after his death expressed the general sentiment: “Steve Jobs was a CEO of beauty. In his interviews and especially in private, Jobs often spoke about Art. Taste. Soul. Life. And he sincerely meant it, as evidenced by the tasteful, soulful products he created over 30 years.”

Consciously or subconsciously, our decision regarding aesthetics always factors in cost as an important role in our decisions. When it comes to both the buying and the making of a product, we are sometimes faced with the decision of whether to sacrifice aesthetics for cost. But in a market driven by visual impact, first glance and short attention spans, can a product be quite as market competitive without drawing attention based on aesthetics?

In other words, if you don’t “have consumers at hello” by making a visual statement, can you truly rise above the competition?  Before you consciously shave costs by skimping on aesthetics, ask yourself if you can really afford NOT to work towards a triumph of taste.

If a single product can redefine a market, shape social behavior, and go as far as influence society as a whole, it becomes increasingly important for products to be designed well in every way. In an age of fast making, over-production and obsolescence, all objects should be designed carefully and beautifully in order to be good. Doing good won’t cost as much as you think…and its results will likely far outstrip the up front investment.