Friday, October 13, 2006

Paul Graham on taste

From Taste for Makers by Paul Graham:

For those of us who design things, these are not just theoretical questions. If there is such a thing as beauty, we need to be able to recognize it. We need good taste to make good things.


If you mention taste nowadays, a lot of people will tell you that "taste is subjective." They believe this because it really feels that way to them.

Saying that taste is just personal preference is a good way to prevent disputes. The trouble is, it's not true. You feel this when you start to design things.

This is so true. Perhaps some people believe this because they have never done much design. So to them, it seems like a reasonable thing to say. The problem is when you have bosses that think that taste is subjective and make you prove why one design or process, etc. is better than another. We can spend so much time trying to prove something that those that have taste just KNOW to be true.

At any given time there are a few hot topics and a few groups doing great work on them, and it's nearly impossible to do good work yourself if you're too far removed from one of these centers.


As a practical matter, I think it's easier to see ugliness than to imagine beauty. Most of the people who've made beautiful things seem to have done it by fixing something that they thought ugly. Great work usually seems to happen because someone sees something and thinks, I could do better than that. ...

Intolerance for ugliness is not in itself enough. You have to understand a field well before you develop a good nose for what needs fixing. You have to do your homework. But as you become expert in a field, you'll start to hear little voices saying, What a hack! There must be a better way.

It starts to become a problem when you don't work with people with taste. With people that aren't great hackers, that don't get its the right thing because to some extent they think taste is subjective. It becomes very demotivating. Not only is it a constant fight, but as it says else where in this article, having good taste isn't enough. You have to work with other people with taste because then you draw off each-other. If you are the only person with taste, you run the risk of stagnation.

Oh well... its one of those weeks. Anyway, good article.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Comment on your comments ~ This holds true in any field. It's all about being like-minded. Otherwise there is no communication because there is no understanding of/ or interest in the final goal.
So then drive diminishes and so does completion. A bummer!
Good luck :)