What you can’t talk about

This is long so feel free to skip it.

Taste. You don’t hear that word much now.
And yet we still need the underlying concept, whatever we call it…

…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. When they like something, they have no idea why. It could be because it’s beautiful, or because their mother had one, or because they saw a movie star with one in a magazine, or because they know it’s expensive. Their thoughts are a tangle of unexamined impulses.

Most of us are encouraged, as children, to leave this tangle unexamined. If you make fun of your little brother for coloring people green in his coloring book, your mother is likely to tell you something like “you like to do it your way and he likes to do it his way.”

Your mother at this point is not trying to teach you important truths about aesthetics.
She’s trying to get the two of you to stop bickering…

…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…
_ _ _

That’s not me talking. That’s Paul Graham talking in his remarkable book Hackers & Painters. Who’s Paul Graham? How much time do I have? Not much? OK: Paul’s a programmer, writer and entrepreneur (co-founded Viaweb which eventually became Yahoo! Store), but he’s probably most famous for heading up Y Combinator.

My 2¢:
You—as the keeper of the flame in your business
(offline, online—what line?), you know that fires need perpetual attention to grow. Are you happy with how your product or service is showcased on your website or in your store?

Do you need to, as the author Guy Kawasaki suggests, “get better reality?” Better reality in this context does not suggest doing something disingenuous.
Far from it. Better reality simply means making something truthful and meaningful more engaging.

P.S. It was Hackers & Painters that made me fall in love with the writing of Paul Graham. When I first read it several years ago, it changed the way I looked at what was and wasn’t possible. And that’s why I still go back to it from time to time (I highly recommend it).