As told in this great NYT article about the "Four Star Soup Kitchen" of chef Michael Ennes, aesthetics matter a great deal. Certainly more than we give them credit. The care and attention to detail which goes into a meal, for example, can be a source of great pleasure and meaning for both cook and diner. Even in the context of a so-called soup kitchen.
Of course, you needn’t trust me on this. Virginia Postrel has written a wonderful book on the subject, The Substance of Style, and you simple must check out her 2004 article titled Why Buy What You Don’t Need? The Marginal Appeal of Aesthetics. I use stories and arguments from her article in a yearly lecture I give at Stanford on the topic of meaning and the design of meaning. I love her take on Maslow’s hierarchy, and where she places aesthetics in the stack. And I think you already know I believe it’s Virginia who is right.
Great post (as usual), diego. I really enjoyed postrel’s article.
Just a quick question as to whether this applies to web sites. I’d like to think it does, but the incredible success of many “ugly” sites raises some doubt. Companies like ebay, craigslist, wikipedia, myspace, drudge report, plenty of fish, etc. all had much better looking competitors. Sites which are seemingly the most aesthetic often don’t seemed get the critical user adoption necessary to succeed.
Some related articles: