What Makes It Great? (First Draft) - Joel on Software
An interesting, if flawed little article. It kind of relates to the 'Lovemarks' concept - some things just attain significance beyond their apparent worth, and people become emotionally attached to them.
But look at Joel's choices for great design - Brad pitt, the ipod, Aeron chairs, Sweet Home Alabama. Yes, all good things, but that choice says more about the 'transcendant factor' in those designs. The key thing is the eye of the beholder.
Joel's choices scream late-20s-early-30s young urban white male, with a techy leaning. They say 'this is my taste'.
What happens when you consider, say, a TG Greens Easimix bowl in that equation? Or a top loading washing machine? Or a traditional wooden spoon?
It's like the 'ugly concrete buildings' argument. Back in the 18th century, people used to look at mediaeval and gothic buildings and go 'ugh, it's so ugly and old fashioned, we must pull it down immediately!'. By today's standards, they were vandals. I remember, when I first found out about this - when I was a teenager, about 15 years ago - I thought 'Hmn. People hate concrete building from the post war to the 70s, and pull it down on site these days. How long til someone decides it has aesthetic value and thinks we're vandals?'. That seems to be happening already...
So, my point is, I think, that any list of 'great' design is about taste. Taste is arbited by the media, and also by what owning one of those 'great designs' says about you as a person. iPods aren't just about looking pretty, they're about being the kind of person who owns an ipod. They're about conspicuous aesthetics, conspicuous consumption, and branding.
It's about fashion.