Aesthetics and style are not the same, despite opinions that claim otherwise. It’s popular to think that both aesthetics and style are subjective concerns, yet one is objective.
Style sits on top of aesthetics. Aesthetics support style, as the foundation and framework of a house are established before sheetrock is hung and paint is rolled on. Therefore, no matter what design style or are era we’re dealing with, we will recognize certain principles and elements that are common to all.
We’re not speaking of an “aesthetic” which would describe a certain trend, style or form. We’re speaking of aesthetics, which is most simply defined as the theory of beauty. Aesthetics are what makes something visually appealing, and deal with issues of balance, pattern texture, rhythm, color, value, composition, structure, shape, proportion and such. These principles are not subject to the opinion or whim of the designer or client, but are necessary, universal components make something pleasing enough to catch our interest. Being universal, aesthetics apply in all places, at all times, in all cultures.
Style is subjective. Aesthetics are objective. Designers and artists apply their own interpretations to aesthetics to express a style or trend. If we compare a Picasso with a Pontormo we see that stylistically, they are very different. Yet aesthetically, they are the same.
Sound aesthetics enable a design to function in the manner it’s intended, while style adds personality or creative expression.