The Distinction Between Good Design and Taste

I think lots of people confuse these two things, so I thought I’d lay a few thoughts down on the matter.

There are definite underlying principles that correlate with good design. Balance, harmony, structure, material, attunement to manufacturing process etc. As far as I am concerned these are independent of a person’s taste. Think of the fibonacci spiral found in nature. This is mathematically based and is pleasing to the eye but this doesn’t mean you have a taste for spiral staircases. Conversely just because you might have a taste for carved elephants on your headboard it doesn’t necessarily mean the headboard is a good design, although it might be. Tastes change and are contingent to culture, upbringing and fashion. Good design is timeless.

Take this chair as an example; designed by Koizumi Makoto and manufactured by Miyazaki. I would say this is high quality design based on the principles I stated above. And yet I wouldn’t buy one because it’s not my taste. Although I’m sure there are lots of folks out there that would love to own one.

Good design almost seems obvious in hindsight, however it is anything but when you are designing. Did someone say “simplicity the other side of complexity”?

I will close this little rant with one of my favourite analogies; music. A design can reach a point where it could be said to be in tune – much like an instrument. With music though it is more widely known that there is such a thing as “in tune”. I am not saying that the “good” I refer to is all objective. As a designer I believe that in order for me to produce good designs requires me to get myself “in tune” so to speak – as well as the design. Maybe then I’ll strike a chord.

Modern wooden chair designed by Miyazaki