When I was eleven my family moved into a new house. The night before the move-in, we stood in our new kitchen and ate pizza to celebrate.
My parents opened a bottle of champagne. I’d never had champagne before, but the fizz and the aroma reminded me of sparkling grape juice.
I took a big gulp from my glass and almost gagged. I expected something sweet, but it was dry and bitter.
My parents laughed because it was supposedly really good champagne. To me it tasted terribly foreign—I didn’t like it at all and asked for apple juice instead.
Ira Glass famously said that we get into creative work because we have good taste. As a designer, you need to remember that many of the people you will work for in life don’t.
Of course some do. All the good design sense in the world hasn’t been doled out to just you and your dribbble friends.
And this isn’t to say other people aren’t creative. Creativity comes in all kinds of forms.
But, regarding taste, people are drawn to the familiar. In most cases they are familiar with out-dated trends or rushed design work.When you bring something new and beautiful to the table, they won’t appreciate its subtlety or its refinement.
Your tasteful design will be foreign and unfamiliar, like champagne to an eleven year old. Your team, your boss, your client – they need an opportunity to acquire a taste for your work.
Share early, share often.
Tom Froese once wrote:
To say we have exclusive expertise is perhaps a little bit dangerous, as though designers have all the creative juices ... It is to imply that we know best, always. But we are not experts on visual communication ... so much as we are experts in the design process, which is a dialogue.
This applies to all aspects of the design process. Style and taste are no exception.
I can’t count the number of times a colleague or client has said “I know I said I didn’t like this last week, but it’s really grown on me.”
How often have you worked on something for weeks – leading up to a big reveal, but when you presented to your team they weren’t really excited about the work? So, you went and iterated over and over for weeks or (god forbid) months only to wind up with almost exactly the same design as you started with?
It turns out your first design was actually pretty damn good. It held up, but your team needed time to acquire a taste for it.
Over time I’ve come to abandon the big reveal in favor of sharing early and sharing often. And I’ve found that you can elevate just about anyone’s taste. It just takes time.