I am one for subtlety when possible. Let me re-phrase this, I am one of the most direct persons in the world but still I am a believer in the power of subtlety -again, if possible- when it comes to creativity.
But as with almost anything, there are occasions when you want your message to be as direct as possible, sometimes for its shocking value, sometimes to get to a wider audience.
When it comes to art, advertising or design, that is normally the case: the less subtle the more shocking and more "easy to understand" but, at the same time, because subtlety is lost something else is lost. Sometimes is the desirable "wink" from the issuer to the receptor, sometimes is its usability.
Let's see an example, in this case using some "geek jewelry"; to be more specific, "geeky wedding bands". Let's see first one with some subtlety:
This is a geeky wedding band, no doubt. It obviously says "we are geeks" (and proud of that, as they should be) ;) but also is subtle and therefore very usable. What it says? It has the initials of the bride in binary code, there is a wink to the alike.
Now, lets see an interest "object" conceived also as a geeky wedding ring, but that has no subtlety at all...
Here it is:
It gets your attention, no doubt. From a jeweler point of view is well done and a "good idea" in the sense that the artist shows her ability to mix materials. But is not subtle -not at all-, and my guess is that while it may be a great way for the author to show her skills, there will be less people brave enough to actually use these as their wedding bands. In fact, I personally would call the first set "geeky" but if in use, I would call these second set "nerdy".
Basically, the lack of subtlety give them more shocking value -you will remember these more- but makes them less usable. It doesn't make one "better" than the other, don't get me wrong. It just make one more "designed" (and easier to use) and the other one more "art" but less "practical".
Subtle ring as seen in Jakob Homan.com , not so subtle as seen in Oddee.com, more from the same artist in Flickr