Ira Glass, Taste, Unicorns and Rainbows

I was chatting with UX friends Matt and Mark when the topic of taste came up. Mark brought up the Ira Glass Storytelling series of videos, which are great. If you haven't seen it, there's a great discussion on taste for creators.

This is Ira Glass from This American Life talking about story telling, and how we get into creative work because we love it and we have good taste. He talks about the gap in the beginning when we're trying to make stuff, that turns out short of our expectations. With taste, we know when our execution falls short. I think I've been doing what I do long enough to know about that feeling of disappointment.

Glass offers this advice for sticking it out.

It's going to take you a while. It's normal to take a while and you just have to fight your way through that. OK? You will be fierce, you will be a warrior, and you will make things that aren't as good as you know in your heart you want them to be. And you will just make one after another.

When we make things that don't reflect our taste level, it can be frustrating, but it keeps us doing the work. Because, in the end, what we say about taste is never as good as showing our taste level by executing.

I think I have pretty good taste, although it doesn't reflect a singular style or aesthetic, and ranges from the minimalism and zen on one end (good taste) to embracing the ugly and conceptual on the other (decidely bad taste that's so bad it's good). I think my execution gets better with every project, which is why I do a lot of small projects. I know I'm not a visual designer, so I'm the harshest judge and critic of my attempts. The repeated execution really helps get me closer, in my opinion, to understanding how to deliver tasteful projects and products.

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but to piggyback on Glass' message, I think it's productive to do small and insignificant work for the sake of doing it. This is why I do repeated redesigns/reskinning of personal projects. I believe your blog doesn't count in the don't redesign/realign argument unless doing so affects your livelihood. If you ever followed my personal blog, you know that's how I learned to do better CSS. Even if you're only sketching ideas that will never see the light of day, or making collages of unicorns and rainbows, it counts.