Try to find a definition of ‘good taste’ and you’ll likely fail. It seems to be something we’re supposed to innately understand. But given how important it is, it deserves a practical way to understand it. So, here goes:
Good taste is knowing what your audience will like just before they do.
Your audience might be people who are coming over for dinner, or it might be the million people who watch your next video online.
If you give them what they already know and understand, you’re demonstrating taste, you’re simply copying.
And if you show up with something that they reject, well, in their eyes, you have bad taste.
But good taste — that’s magical. It’s a form of leadership. It gives you the leverage to help define the culture, to lead our understanding of what’s important and what’s next.
Where does good taste come from? Sometimes, it’s unexamined or accidental, which leads people to imagine it’s some sort of talent. It’s not.
It’s a skill. It comes from domain knowledge, from persistence and from caring about your audience and the impact of your work.
When we expose ourselves to what has come before and create a (reasonably) safe perch to cycle our work — imagining, shipping, learning, repeating — then we set ourselves up to develop the skill.
Good taste, like all skills, is hard to earn and worth it.
[This riff was inspired by my book The Practice.]