Your simplest work is your best. True aesthetics are being hidden behind unneccessary gradients, shadows, and patterns.
Layer Style Diet presents a simple challenge: for one project only, be it a site, logo, icon set, or any other form of work, do not use any layer styles or effects.
I’ve been meaning to learn Pixelmator, and this seems like the perfect complement to that task; I have to do a redesign of a one-page landing for a client, and the plan is for something minimal. Pixelmator eschews a great many of the built-in features that Photoshop has, but in its place retains much of the same raw power.
One of the things that has kept me so attached to Photoshop for so long was its unbelievably powerful layer styles, but even before finding this pledge I was beginning to feel that I was using them as a crutch to introduce business and overdesigned UI elements in to my work as a way to “justify” my designs as being, well, professionally designed. Their power has also made it easy to be lazy and eschew creative approaches to problems in favor of rote technique reproduction.
For what it’s worth, Mild-Mannered Canadian Fury was an experiment in minimalist workflow for me, completely abandoning a “traditional” graphical design process in favor of modern and less involved tools. I made no sketches and never opened Photoshop once, except to clip out a screen-shot to create the favicon. The site was conceived by rapidly prototyping designs in pure CSS, and any time I went to seek an outside opinion I would simply take screenshots of elements that I wanted examined in a vacuum. It was a surprisingly rewarding design process, and one I would go through again designing simpler web properties.