People with good taste are much admired and we spend a lot of time and money trying to acquire it. But what exactly is good taste? I suspect most people think that a person of good taste has the ability to recognize what other people in their social group (or the social group they aspire to) find attractive. It’s the ability to identify a shared preference.
But this definition won’t do.
When we look at the question from the perspective of people who are charged with creating objects that taste good—chefs, winemakers, artists, musicians, and designers—it’s obvious there is more to it than identifying shared preferences.
Creative people strive to do better even after they have successfully created something people want. Why? If your aim is only to create something that people enjoy, then there is little point in trying to do better if the idea of “better” doesn’t refer to any standard aside from what people like. Or to put the point differently, taste makers and their patrons create good taste. They are not relying solely on what is currently accepted as compelling. People on the leading edge of trends have good taste. The others are just following the crowd.
Having good taste involves knowing what is truly excellent or of genuine value, which may have little to do with current social conventions.
Good taste is forward looking, anticipating a world to come.