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What Is Aesthetic Value?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Aesthetic value is a judgment of value based on the appearance of an object and the emotional responses it evokes. While it is difficult to objectively assess aesthetic value, it often becomes an important determining factor in overall value; things people perceive as attractive tend to be in higher demand, and will cost more than comparable objects without the aesthetic component. For example, two homes with similar amenities, locations, and sizes can sell for radically different prices if one is a custom-designed Craftsman while the other is a generic manufactured home.

Judging artistic value is a complex process. Culturally, ongoing debates swirl around aesthetics in many regions of the world, and perceptions of beauty tend to be influenced by the culture a person grows up in. People in the West, for example, may value Classical design inspired by Ancient Greece and Rome, while people in the East may not find this style aesthetically pleasing. Works of art are judged on aesthetic value and can have radically difference price tags on the basis of appearance and creator, even if the materials are identical.

Art is not the only field where aesthetic value is a concern. Crafts like furniture and clothing design must also consider aesthetics, as must real estate, where the appearance of a home can have a profound impact on the sales price. Engineers also consider aesthetics when designing products, as an attractive design can make a product more valuable in the eyes of consumers; keyboards, for example, come in a variety of designs, and those with unusual or distinctive appearances tend to have a higher price point.

This can also be a concern with nature. In many cultures, the idea that nature has inherent aesthetic value is widely socially accepted, although some natural landscapes may be considered more attractive than others. The belief in the aesthetic value of nature was the driving force behind social developments like the national parks in the United States; the government specifically set aside natural spaces for their natural beauty, rather than allowing residents of the nation to use them for development.

Aesthetics is a highly subjective area of study, although numerous colleges and universities include coursework designed to help students assess aesthetics and make accurate judgments. Psychologists and social scientists also have an interest in this field, as they want to know how cultures develop ideas about beauty, and how those ideas play out in cultural phenomena.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Charred — On Aug 17, 2011

@nony - On the surface I would agree with you, since you and I probably share similar tastes in the aesthetics value of art.

Unfortunately, we live in a post modern age. If you look at a lot of modern, or abstract, art, it would be hard to argue that it is aesthetically pleasing based on your definition.

A lot of abstract art doesn’t have much in the way of pattern or symmetry; it may or may not have color. Even if it has all three qualities, however, it still may not be aesthetically pleasing to a lot of people.

Take a green box in white space. Okay, you have patterns, symmetry and color. Is it art? Some would say yes, others would say no.

What it lacks is context (hence the term abstract). Anyway, these things are subjective. What makes a buyer of a painting willing to pay millions of dollars for simple, abstract art, I’ll never know.

By nony — On Aug 16, 2011

@miriam98 - While I agree that aesthetics is subjective and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think there are some qualities that are universally accepted as part of anything that has aesthetics value.

I believe, for example, that color, patterns and symmetry are these basic qualities. I cannot imagine anything that lacks color or order as being aesthetically pleasing.

I think patterns are important too. You see patterns in beautifully terraced landscapes, which the article uses as an example of aesthetics.

By miriam98 — On Aug 15, 2011

I think it should be pointed out that to some people an aesthetics value definition connotes something superficial, although it is not meant to be that way in any sense of the term.

For example, if you’re designing software for someone, sometimes they will tell you to focus on the functionality and worry about aesthetics later. They don’t mean that the aesthetics, in this case the interface, is not important; far from it, software interfaces are very important.

However, in the prototyping phase what other developers and end users want to see first is that the software works and does so without any errors or bugs.

By behaviourism — On Aug 15, 2011

I read an article recently that was talking about the aesthetics value of beauty, and whether it was real. Apparently some studies have been done to show that even really small children know the difference between beautiful people and average looking people, although I don't know if they could figure out why. It makes me wonder if there really is a definitive answer to aesthetic questions; I was always taught that there wasn't really, but that research makes me wonder.

By stolaf23 — On Aug 15, 2011

I remember talking about aesthetic values a lot in a philosophy course I took in college. Not only is a big thing when discussing art, but in schools it becomes important depending on who thinks what field of study is most important. It can be really interesting, though, to hear why different people have different ways to define aesthetic values.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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