So I've been watching Project Runway II...not religiously, but I watch it with the same reason I watched that modeling reality show with Tyra: to see what others are seeing that I'm not. Certainly, one can say that models don't do much. They dress up, look pretty, and walk. But I always had a suspicion that's like saying basketball is just putting the ball in the hoop. While both true, they're gross over-simplifications.
I often joke, while watching Project Runway, that there should be a reality TV show about engineers and coders. "For this challenge, you have to code on an Amiga!" "For this challenge, write your own Sudoku generation algorithm!"
But thinking about it hard, there is always a trend in technology, where first, it has to be functionally working and innovative, before the designers move in and improve it incrementally and aesthetics. In the case of web applications, with the recent surge of the so-called web 2.0 sites, they all have a similar look and feel. Some of this is constrained by the practicality of a common GUI widget set. Some of this is due to the common fonts and the set of pleasing color schemes. However, on the other end of the specturm, you have flash sites with an unusable UI set and overly animated.
What's the balance between something new, aesthetic, simple, yet functional? I suppose this is the holy grail that most designers strive for. I wonder if it's possible to be both technologically innovative and aesthetically innovative in one step?