If design is done well it may not be noticed.
However, design which offends feels obvious and often overwhelms content.
When I am confronted with great designs around me I am humbled with my own attempts to make design fade into the background and support content. To become the stream which carries the content to the audience swifter, with more context, and with clearer meaning must be as much art as science.
Educators are new to large-scale instructional design. Our learning curve is steep, but can be quick if we acknowledge some unique obstacles educators have to overcome. Before we are asked to be instructional designers, and way before we ever receive training in instructional design – we use Learning Management Systems (LMSs). So we have experienced the features and are told the benefits of these features by the vendors, yet we are not practiced in the nuances of participating in a variety of courses. We do not have the scaffolding to construct a sound structure of the features a LMS offers. I think there are subtleties which lost to those whose want to use features of any program instead of designing around content.
It is only a feature if your audience realizes a benefit. It is a detraction to your content if they must overcome your use of a feature.
Please raise your hand if you have ever heard about a feature in a LMS and been excited to use it. Congratulations you are normal. The only time that presents a problem is if you force the use of the feature; if you make use of it for the sake of novelty instead of providing your audience with a benefit for using that feature. When a feature is used in an artificial manner it cheapens the content and the overall course. Your audience will not doubt their ability to understand the features, but doubt the usefulness of your course to them at all.
And it is a dead message you send if they must think about what to do in the face of your design.
Just as Cato would rather have someone wonder why he does not have a statue I would rather have someone ask why I did not use a feature than why I did.
I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one.
Marcus Porcius Cato