My definitions of “beauty” and “taste”

Semantic arguments are bad, so I like to define words I use. Here’s how I think about “beauty” and “taste”.


Beauty is the result of a harmonious relationship of parts. “Part” might be used in the manufacturing sense, where different parts are combined to produce an artefact. It could be areas in a painting, or individual brush strokes. It could be the neck of a vase, and its base.

When those parts are good together, the artefact is beautiful.

Beauty is universal. It cuts across cultures and time. Something that was beautiful 2,000 years ago is still beautiful today. Beauty belongs to the object, not to the person who looks at it.

People interact with beauty in different ways.

First, everyone is affected by beauty because it is universal. Each person might be affected in a different way.

Second, some people take the time to understand why artefacts are beautiful. These people could be curators, or critics.

Third, some people learn the knowledge and skills to make beautiful artefacts. This includes designers.


I think there are three valid definitions of “taste”.

An understanding of what makes an artefact beautiful

In this case, the person can choose artefacts that are more beautiful. They can talk about why they are beautiful. If they also make artefacts, they can choose between possible directions based on which is more beautiful.

You can develop this type of taste. You must be exposed—and pay attention—to many beautiful artefacts. Eventually your brain’s pattern recognition kicks in. You start to see what beautiful artefacts have in common. You understand why one artefact is beautiful and another isn’t. People who were “born with” taste simply started this process at an early age.

Knowledge of and a preference for current style trends

In this case, the person knows which style to choose to appeal to current cultural preferences.

You can develop this type of taste as well. You must seek out and remember new style trends. Unlike the previous definition, this type of taste is not timeless. You need to be on top of modern styles for as long as you want to have this type of “taste”.

A person’s style preferences

In this case, the person’s taste is their own preferences. What they like and don’t like. I might prefer gothic architecture, and you might prefer brutalist architecture, so we have different tastes.

This type of taste develops naturally. Among other things, it will be based on your personal experiences and the cultures you’re a part of.

As you learn more about beauty and trends, your personal preferences might change because you’ll be able to appreciate how things are designed in different ways.