Sensitivity to Aesthetics

by Ashok Nayar

Since I was a child, I’ve always been sensitive to aesthetics.  A beauty of an Eames Lounge Chair, the cut of a perfectly tailored blazer, or the button on a website that you know took the designer about 73 layer masks to complete. But there’s an idea in business, even ones that have deep creative implications, that focus on beauty is distraction from efficiency.  There’s an idea that it’s a zero sum game.  To gain efficiency, one must not waste time on how they dress.  They should wear a sweatshirt.  One must not waste time on how their website looks.  It should be built in wordpress.  Or even more scary, how their website feels.

It’s all bullshit.

It’s true that excessive focus on styling of a website, or the cut of a suit has no direct link to the quality of your work.  (I use the internet here as the example since that’s what I know).  But in any business, in any pursuit, the emotional response that one has to your work is why they continue to come back.  It’s not always that it’s the cheapest or the fastest.  But does it solve a problem one has in a way that makes that experience uniquely affecting.

Pinterest is a good example of this.  Yes Pinterest is fast, and yes Pinterest works remarkably well for what the underlying goal is, of saving and sharing beautiful imagery.  But Pinterest strikes a deeper chord in most of us.  As Ben Silbermann, the CEO once said, “We want you to feel as if it was built for you.  As if it’s your own magazine of all the things you love”.  That’s why it works so well and that’s why their usage metrics are through the roof.  People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

It’s not a hoodie that builds an empire.  It’s the idea that the world can be connected.  So don’t just build things that work.  Build things that work beautifully.  Build things that are so beautiful to use, they disappear into your life.

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