In a subjective and unconsidered way, it is simplistically easy to dismiss something as ugly.

But this reduces our appreciation for design. When everything is rendered down to Like and Don’t Like, we risk turning design into a shallow, surface exercise driven by fleeting fashion trends.

So what is ugliness? Is it the lack of intellectual rigour and hard work? The failure to reasonably consider the multifaceted factors around a problem and the solution? Factors such as:

Littering is ugly. Objects made out of recycled rubbish is not. Contrast the underlying attitudes and intentions.

A disposable cheap object manufactured wastefully, with crappy quality, and of dubious usefulness; where the sole concern is blatant greed; is ugly. See your local $2 shop for many examples. An object deliberately designed to be affordable, with the appropriate quality, and clear usefulness, is not.

Overdoing the decorative elements out of use-context is ugly. Over-the-top ornamentation where ornamentation is the point is not. Think mobile phone bling-cancer versus Art Noveau architecture.

Note: I wrote this post purely around design. I don't think it applies directly to art. Judging art is more visceral and subjective.