Ever since Scoble posted this post a debate has been raging about anti marketing design. It looks like the debate can be broken down into 2 sides, Designers are calling this BS. My experience is that what users say they want and need has very little to do with what they really want. There is no place this is more then true on Plentyoffish.com, the information people enter in their profiles telling others what they are looking for does not correspond to what they actually use the site to search for.
Why anti-marketing design will win or not win over pretty designs.
1. When it comes to sites dishing up commodity products the users ONLY want to use or consume the product. Users don't want to be distracted by useless graphics, colors, features etc. When you buy spoons from a place like walmart, you just pick them out of a big box of spoons. They don't come with a mountain of packaging, they don't come with manuals, and most of all they don't come plastered with pretty graphics and a "beautiful layout". Search is a commodity, social networks are a commodity, and beautiful does not work for online commodities.
2. If you want to sell status and power then you need to have a beautiful site. Companies sell things like cars by playing off peoples insecurities, having an "ugly" site would make it very hard to sell luxury items.
3. Anti-marketing design screams authenticity, the content is far more important then the design and as a result sites designed like this bring in way more money then "pretty sites" when selling low end items. There is no better example of this then the 1 page site that is really a 75 page sales letter.
I think the biggest problem today is that many designers are designing for their ego and not with the end users in mind. I can understand that no one wants to make "lame bland" looking sites and as that would make their job extremely boring. But at the end of the day who cares about how beautiful your site is if it doesn't make any money and no one uses it.