Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's behind taste and preference?

Are you a dramatic, exotic bird of paradise? A simple, happy daisy? Or a fine lacy heather? These three different flowers grow wild along the side of Quail Garden Road, and I get to enjoy them on my morning walks. Each beautiful in its own way, and oh so different. What makes someone prefer one over the other? I have a definate preference and I suspect most people do.

Line me up next to someone with the same background, same age, same gender, same career, same stage in life, and yet it's very likely we'd both pick a different flower. The choice of a preferred flower may be no big deal, but think about the places where the aesthetic of taste has big financial impacts. Line me and that person who appears so similar to me again and ask us to pick a car, a pair of shoes, a color of paint, or any numer of consumer goods and we'll behave like the individuals we are.

Each with our own sense of taste. Not just members of some demographic group (which of course we are), but individual people with our own personal taste and preference. So for product designers and communicators everywhere our jobs depend on an understanding of this illusive aesthetic of taste.

I'm left wondering about that illusive chicken and egg debate. Does something become popular when it's liked? Or is it liked because it's popular. That's a matter of taste I guess. For now, I'm enjoying my dramatic and exotic bird of paradise.

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