Obviously they have created some great businesses but I can’t readily think of any examples where they’ve led to truly great software.
Ha! Excellent observation! May I quote you on that?
Regarding the terminology: there is indeed a danger of sounding too elitist. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that there are professional skills that (hopefully) all designers possess. Taste is one of these core skills. Having a sophisticated taste is something we earn our living with. It should be OK to say that.
By the way: there is a really nice article by Andy Kirk on the matter of elegance in data visualisation:
What Makes a Data Visualisation Elegant?
The Data Visualization Society members share their views on this most elusive of design concepts.
I am not a huge fan of normative definitions — but it is definitely a good exercise to reflect on these questions.