On Aesthetics

What are aesthetics? Can you articulate exactly what aesthetics are? If you can’t describe aesthetics, I bet you feel them when you read Hemingway, drive a Tesla or admire supermodel Miranda Kerr.


A supermodel? Beauty and elegance are the first foundation of aesthetics. Yet beauty is superficial. Can we ignore it? Sure, at your peril. As George Horace Lorimer wrote, “A dirty shirt may hide a pure heart, but it seldom covers a clean skin.” He insists that two thirds of success is making people think you’re alright. Google’s homepage, www.google.com, is the most valuable web page in the world. It could earn the GDP of a small country if they placed ads on it. That’s what other search engines did in the early 2000’s – they plastered ads all over their homepage. But where are they now? Google kept their homepage ad free, clean, simple. Beautiful and elegant. Aesthetic. And today they’re the most popular search engine in the world. Google, as Lormer would say, made people think they were alright.


What makes something elegant? Simplicity leads to elegance. Simplicity is the second foundation of aesthetics. Simplicity isn’t finding important ideas. When you say three things, you say none. Simplicity is finding the core idea. When you say one thing, you’ve won. For example, the core idea of Christianity is as useful as the entire bible: don’t do to others, what you don’t want them to do to you. Simplicity is the secret of designers; a profession dedicated to aesthetics. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”


So what are aesthetics? Aesthetics are elegance, beauty, and simplicity.