Day: 27
By. Tim Chang

What’s your taste?”

— Brainstorm ideas based on your creative tastes!

The Brainstorm

In response to last Sunday’s Reflection, Tim Chang shared this talk with me, and it resonated. It’s about Tim’s creative process, which, Cheekily enough, he named after himself. TIM: (T) Taste, (I) Imitate, (M) Make it your own. For today’s Brainstorm, we’re going to use his formula, starting with taste. Here’s an excerpt from his talk (starting at 10m50s):

Figure out what’s your taste. All of you have a taste. Things that inspire you. Your very favorite “desert island” albums. Your three must-read books. Your top two restaurants. Those are the things that you adore. They speak to you. They represent all the things that you love. Really hone in what those things are that turn you on.

In future brainstorms, we’ll return to steps 2 and 3 of the TIM formula, but for today, let’s just focus on taste.

So, it’s your turn. What’s your taste? Share something you love. It can be anything — a well-designed piece of furniture, a beautiful landscape, your favorite TV show. Today, the focus won’t be on products and services, although you can share those too. There’s only two rules: no Apple products, and no sex. Which, is really just one rule, isn’t it?

Don’t be shy —reply!

What dots connect when you read this? Let your imagination roam free and send your thoughts over email to! If your contribution is selected, we’ll showcase it below…


Rémi Cossart
One class of items I love are ones which get better with use. My cast iron skillets and wok fall into this category as the patina thickens with use. There are some AI tech products that have this property as well.

Dave Martina
Snarky Puppy.

Mai-Li Hammargren
Food: Green lentils
Clubs: Berghain
Brands: Helmut Lang, Filippa K, Rodebjer and ACN
Technology: Laika cameras
Film: Amélie
Books: Crossing the Chasm (G Moore) and Effectiation ( S Sarasvathy)
Sports: trail running
Transportation: my bike
Drink: tap water
Cities: Stockholm, Berlin San Francisco, Amsterdam and Copenhagen
Activity: Spreading light, speaking German
State of mind: lazy ambitious
Random: The silence under water, Ballet pointe shoes, Barbie dolls

Beau Bergeron
I was deeply meth-addicted to Breaking Bad! It actually brought my sister and I closer together analyzing every single episode.

Paul Sawaya
Great topic. I’d like to contribute by sharing some choice quotes (for length, put them in a Google Doc!) from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which concerns itself with (among many other things) the ineffable nature of Quality.

Francis Pedraza
Tim, hell yes!
 — Different generation, but I remember Dad taking me to see Phantom Menace. Wow. I was already obsessed with the first trilogy, so the big screen experience blew me away.
 — As a child, I was absorbed in Arthurian legend.
 — The Hardy Boys got me addicted to reading.
 — I loved strategy games. Medieval (I and II) and Rome Total War. Starcraft. I’ve often wished building a company could feel more like an RTS game. In fact, that’s a good investment thesis. :)

Benjamin Witte
Taste is something I profoundly believe in. While everyone is entitled to their own taste — I do believe some people have incredible taste and others are tasteless. One of the issues I have with many internet services is the fact that they’re designed to over value the wisdom of the crowds and don’t respect tastemakers. The two that come to mind are Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Taste is a hard thing to incorporate into a product or experience when you’re designing products for 1b people. Apple being the exception.

Keenahn Jung
Calvin and Hobbes

Benjamin, does that presume that there is some sort of objective measurement of beauty and value? And if “having good taste” is not the same as “designing for 1B people,” then what is it? To me, taste is extremely personal. I’m not sure there is such a thing as “having good taste” objectively. If I say that someone else “has good taste,” I’m just saying that I agree with a lot of their taste-based decisions.

Ricardo Pedraza
Keenahn, I hope this is useful and not trite and pedantic, but what the hell here goes… An approach philosophically that a teacher of mine once attributed to Hume (oops I never read the original text so I can’t be sure)…

1. I like it and it’s good
2. I like it even though it’s not good
3. I don’t like it though it’s good
4. I don’t like it and it’s not good
5. I don’t care

Where on one axis the individual’s view is an absolute prerogative but (as vague, messy or contentious as it may be) on the other axis there is some consensus of experts in the field (self appointed perhaps) or the market even, as to what has excellence (ἀρετή) or is “good”, “objectively”. I totally understand the argument that there is no objective measure, but to the extent there is a society there are things that we can perceive at scales larger than one person — and I think the term “objective” might be an excessive idealization of it… Never really achieved. And maybe all we’ve got really at a social level are vague fashions and fluid social majorities, interspersed with smaller camps with fiercer points of view… But from a business point of view if you are selling an object of beauty and you’ve got the sales who cares what the critics say — sales are objective! The iPhone might be an example of an industrial design object that could easily meet any reasonable test of “it’s good”, objectively. But I may not like it anyway…

(In my case, I do!)

Tim Chang
Another I way look at it is what the seminal influences that shaped you as you grew up — what did you find simply way too cool to be true, that made you want to emulate, imitate and aspire to.

For me, my first formative memories & influences were:
 — Star Wars in the movie theater with my Dad — first real memory with him, actually…what really stuck with me even more than the spaceships and lasers, were the swashbuckling and samurai-esque lightsaber duels, anthropomorphized droids, and the cool costumes and uniforms
 — Post-apocalyptic sci-fi and cartoons: Mad Max & Thundarr the Barbarian inspired dozens of knockoffs pecked-out on my dad’s old typewriter, complete with crappy hand-drawn illustrations
 — Text-based adventure games & early RPGs around the birth of the Apple II computer, and any title by Infocom, Sierra, On-line, initial Electronic Arts catalog…Bards Tale, Wizardry and the Ultima canon.
 — The guitar pyrotechnics of Jimmy Page, followed by Eddie Van Halen, and then Steve Vai, before devolving into excess w/ the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Angelo
 — Darker, more grittier comics and graphic novels by Frank Miller — Dark Knight Returns, Ronin
 — The original “Avengers of Skateboarding” — Powell Peralta’s Bones Brigade, with Tony Hawk, Tommy Guerrero, Rodney Mullen, Steve Cabellero.
 — The twisted and delightful poetry of Shel Silverstein
 — The hyper-glorified pageantry and gun-porn of GI Joe action figures
 — The “how did they get all these into the paper?” wonder and variety of scratch n sniff stickers
 — Sitting around waiting for those 3 or 4 favorite videos when MTV first launched (Men At Work’s “Down Under” and Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight”, etc)
 — Vinyl album recording of John Williams movie soundtracks: Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones
 — Books about Roman gladiator combat and medieval jousting…which inspired me to convince neighborhood kids to don roller skates, wield garbage can lids as shields, and then skate towards each other on the sidewalk using plastic wiffle ball bats in a suburban form of jousting
 — Early coin-operated arcade games: Asteroids, Galaxian, PacMan, Donkey Kong, Defender
 — “alternative” sports: hacky-sack, bb guns, skateboarding

Fun to think back on all the elements I started off trying replicate and re-make…and then seeing how they started morphing and mashing up into each other, even pervading my life and perspective today :)

Ricardo Pedraza
Dinesen floors — wood revealed so essentially, that the material is nearly dematerialized.

Antoni Gaudí — efloressence of effervescent concupiscent curvaceous growth,a valentine’s day thick as a jungle, understood by Hiroshi Tehigahara

Neri Oxman — wild speculation, thoughts unbound, thoughts never thought before

Halim Madi
I love the aesthetic of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”.
I really like Ghost In The Shell, the manga and anime series, Serial Experiments lane > Intersection of philosophy and post cyberpunk.
I like Arthur Ganson’s machines (“I wanted to create the happiest machine. So this one constantly bathe itself in oil”).
I love Synecdoche with Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Really like the details in Ataru Sato’s drawings.
I am in awe in front of Ernesto Netto sculptures.
I like Soko’s “I’ll kill her”.
I like Ferran Adria’s food design.
I like Tolkien’s drawings.
I like Marina Abramovic’s work, Joseph Beuys as well — I find his use of felt amazing.
I have a hard time believing Humans are behind Studio Ghibli’s work.
I want to say I love “all mythology” but I prefer the aesthetics of Nordic, Amerindian, Indian legends to the Polynesian ones for instance.
I like blue, purple and black.
I love how Wabi-Sabi touches something at the border between my body and my soul.
I like Jean Michel Basquiat “I strike words so you can see them better”.
I like Rives’ spoken word poetry.
I could write Reggie Watts’ biography if he’d let me.
I like XKCD!
I like how French women dress.
A well dressed man has a navy blue blazer on, a white shirt, tight dark blue jeans and brown JM Weston shoes
I don’t like Tim Burton that much — it’s not as “sharp” as manga lines.
I don’t like art nouveau furniture.
I didn’t click with Miro
Khan Academy video courses look bad, especially the colours. It makes my soul sad.

Francis Pedraza
Benjamin — Wow. Couldn’t agree more. And having known you most of my life, Ben, you have a remarkably acute sense of taste, so I’m so glad you participated today. I’d love it if you share some of the things you love, but perhaps even more interestingly, are there any common themes behind “Why?” you love certain things or don’t like others?

Come to think of it, “Taste” implies a philosophy of value. If you just like what everyone else likes (what is “cool”), they are borrowing taste from the crowd, or rather abdicating taste to the crowd. Very few people have real opinions, original perspectives… assign their own sense of value, instead of taking it from the group. Most people follow what is “cool”, because the definition of coolness is socially defined / received “value”.

The art market is a fascinating in this sense… a tiny percentage of people have both MONEY AND TASTE (.01%)… some people don’t have money, but they have taste (critics… .05%). some people have lots of money, but no taste (1–3%). and lots of people have some money, some taste (97%). Most of the buyers in the market are that 1–3% that have lots of money, but no taste. They follow the critics and the leading buyers…

I have a sense that this is true in lots of industries… Venture capital, for example. It is far more extreme than just Pareto.

David El Achkar
Pastured-raised beef ribeye cooked rare
Hans Zimmer movie scores, especially Inception
Rock Climbing
Elon musk
Walking up to the edge of a high BASE
Matcha green tea
Arabic calligraphy
Raw whole cocoa beans
Jason smith’s writing

Francis Pedraza
My embarrassingly teenage tastes struggle to mature, but perhaps that is a clue.
Philosopher: Alan Watts
Furniture: OneLessOffice by Heckler Design
Book: The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Song: Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughn Williams
Restaurants: Delarosa and Tacko in SF
Artist: Da Vinci
Activity: Trail running, esp. in spectacular landscapes (English countryside)
 — The “Before” series: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight
 — Easy to please with SciFi, Action/Adventure, and Fantasy movies / TV. Gladiator as par excellence.
 — Also enjoy cooking Rom-Coms like The Hundred Foot Journey, Chef, No Reservations, Chocolat

Keep reading…