Good Taste

My good friend Ben Copsey (double REALbasic prize winner 2004) sent me this link to Paul Graham‘s essay on “Great Hackers”. One of the bits that particularly struck me comes quite late in the essay. This is where he talks about the importance of good taste in producing good work. As he says:
“Many people in this country think of taste as something elusive, or even frivolous. It is neither. To drive design, a manager must be the most demanding user of a company’s products. And if you have really good taste, you can, as Steve Jobs does, make satisfying you the kind of problem that good people like to work on.”
This led me on to looking at some of his other essays – all of them interesting – but the one I particularly liked was “Taste for makers”. Personally, I think Graham gets too hung up on the issue of whether taste is subjective or objective, but where I do agree strongly is his concluding argument that the cultivation of good taste is a requirement for doing great work:
“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. Don’t ignore those voices. Cultivate them. The recipe for great work is: very exacting taste, plus the ability to gratify it.