Taste. Do You Have It? Why?

Do you believe you dress well?

Can you look at someone else and diagnose their inability to put together a savvy outfit?

Are you able to look at a car on the street and deem it ugly?

If you answered yes to any of these, here’s another question for you: How do you know?

It’s not a challenge, but an honest inquiry. What credentials do you have that give you the power to determine whether something is good or bad? Do you have good taste in clothes because you read fashion magazines? What, you watch Project Runway? Do you have good taste in cars because you bought a really expensive one? Did you go to school for the thing you’re passing judgement on? Even then, what do you have to compare this thing to? Do you have experience with this thing?

Taste is based on several things- personality, education, experience, what society accepts…

Not everyone has taste. Some people know how to manage it, and yet for others, their taste is also a sickness.. a detriment. You run into these different types of people in the clients you do work for every day.

A client with little or no taste is a complication in and of itself. Some clients know how to admit they’re not the best at a certain thing, and therefore they rely on the good taste of others to get the job done.

People are hired based on taste.

People generally get hired because their employers trust their judgement. They trust this person will make sound, educated, tasteful decisions based on their knowledge, understanding and perception of the industry. Maybe it’s not saying that the employer couldn’t do it well themselves, but it’s having the decency to let someone else do it because they can do it better. That’s just how it is.

When it goes to the head.

Sometimes people think they have such great taste that there is nothing they should delegate to someone else. They think they can do it all, and do it all well. Maybe they’ll admit that they don’t have the time to do it well, but they won’t admit when something’s not their forte, or when something’s outside their realm of expertise.

What about the rest of us?

The people who are the best in their fields think forward six months. They’re thinking about trends and patterns that have been, and what will be popular in the future. The rest of us are just trying to analyze the here and now- what society accepts today. In reality, most of us aim for the middle… to be average.

The key here is that these people are the best in their fields.

We think the importance of design taste in society isn’t talked about enough, and maybe even a little undervalued. It’s the reason things are accepted, or denied. It’s the reason some people are excellent at what they do, and why some are lacking.

But how do you get taste?

The idea that the parameters surrounding why someone has good taste are largely due to society’s acceptance is interesting. But taste is a tricky thing. Nearly everyone thinks they have it, whether their reasoning is justified or not. How is it justified? How do you obtain taste? What makes your opinion more valid or true or right or… anything?


It seems a bit obvious that you develop taste (good or bad) from being around certain things. Let’s use clothing as an example. If you’re an aspiring high fashion clothing designer, you make fashion your world. You put yourself around it all the time. You read articles in fashion magazines, watch Project Runway, talk to experienced people in the industry, get a fashion-related job. You immerse yourself in it, and in the process are getting one key thing: experience.

But it must be more than that, or else having good taste would be entirely too easy. You have to understand what you’re looking at. There is a story behind every font created, every sculpture, every painting. If you’re viewing a statue of a man in an art gallery, at first glance you might say the statue looks nice. But then you learn that there’s a certain technique that goes into the way he’s leaning slightly forward, and suddenly you understand a little more. You can essentially appreciate it a little more, too. Education allows you to be inventive, and when you’re inventive, you’re creative, and when you’re creative, you’re willing to take risks- at that point the sky’s the limit.

You’ve seen a lot and made a point to understand why you like it or dislike it; that makes you more credible in the eyes of society. And why wouldn’t it? Unless you’re addressing the fact that everyone’s tastes are a little different, you could effectively say that you know what the trends will be and essentially what society will accept or reject. Isn’t that basically what having good taste is?

What to do with it?

Back to our fashion designer example. So say you have all this experience. Say you’ve been to Fashion Week in New York for ten straight years, and been to Paris six times. Say you’re on a first name basis with certain key designers. Your work isn’t done. You have to figure out how to hone your experience. You have to be honest with yourself, and about why you think something’s good or bad. Ask those questions. Make yourself define the reasons why. Diagnose what’s wrong with something and what’s right with something. Continual practice combined with complete immersion will probably lead you to a legitimate representation of taste. That absolutely goes with web design as well- and everything else for that matter. So how do you hone it?

Tips for generally better taste.

We work hard to get better at web design on a daily basis, and we like to think we have good taste. Here are some of the things we do to hone our skills. These tips might help you, too.

  • Visit http://realmacsoftware.com/ember/. It’s a place where people store their influences, images, inspirations and designs. Spend some time there, look around and decide for yourself what’s good or bad about what you see. Why? Be specific.
  • Write about your field. Write about what’s happening to others in the industry, write about what’s happening to you. If you can effectively communicate your thoughts to someone else- you will find your ability to do so helpful daily in your correspondence with clients. Although we would have hated it, we think something like this probably should have been a mandatory class in school…
  • Come up with references for why you do the things you do. You don’t ever have to share them with clients, but if you have strong convictions for why you chose a certain font, you’re justifying your decisions, and essentially validating them. Having to find a reference for each of your decisions forces you to analyze whether it’s a good one, or if a better solution is out there.

    Charles 12/11/2009

    Yeah it’s a great stuff and I am sure I will get some information that I can use it as reference purpose.


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