“Quiet structure is achieved when you de–emphasize the structural elements; the containing boxes, structural lines, bullets, structural color elements, etc… and bring a rhythmical consistency to the layout. The result is that the content becomes more conspicuous and the overall clarity of presentation is greatly enhanced.”
(found via Mike M’s del.icio.us)
A huge part of my aesthetic is the elimination of what Edward Tufte called “chart junk”–elements which not only do not provide additional meaning but actively impede absorption of the information that surrounds them.
I think it’s about language, both spoken languages and visual languages. Anything you do that reduces the need for the viewer to engage language processing / decoding activities in their mind, at least the higher ones, gives you an opportunity to almost naturally, instinctually communicate.
The difference is as wide as someone you know simply smiling at you as opposed to saying “hi I am well, and I hope you are well too.” (no room for social norms in this example. the devil lives in the details ;)
The keyword in the above is “engage.” Let the visitor decide when to engage with your content and at what level. The affordances to do so should be apprehendable (graspable) with a glance and not require decoding.