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I love this analogy, Andy. I use a similar method with my own clients to determine the level of support for certain design elements. I use a three-tiered approach as well:
Things that are critical to branding or web site goals are considered “crucial” and typically include colors, logo presentation and quite often typography. Things which are considered “nice-to-have” often include gradients, rounded corners and drop shadows. Anything else is considered “unimportant,” but only after careful scrutiny.
It’s very inspiring to see other designers arriving at similar techniques through different means. Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas to you and yours.