Committee compromise? Dead hand of history? Aesthetic blindness? Political payoffs? How else can one explain the plague of ugliness exhibited by so many public (and private) buildings, memorials, stamps, coins, and assorted symbols?
Look at the flags of the nations of the world. There are some good ones, but they're far outnumbered by monstrosities. Worse, see the emblems of the 50 states that make up the USA. The Lone Star of Texas is one of the few powerful patterns; it's a singular counterexample to the cluttered flocks of creatures, crests, checkerboards, and mottos. Look closely at web site icons. Study the shelves of corporate logos. Try to keep your lunch down.
Designers, even genius ones, can't seem to protect their creations from frou-frou. Often it's not their fault. Much of the blame belongs to those who judge and select the winners of competitions, with a fair share left over for the implementers of the final choices, plus a bonus awarded to all the after-the-fact addenda-imposers.
Consider the Commemorative State Quarter program, which reached its halfway point in late 2003. Among the 25 coins thus far released, only two have truly outstanding designs: the simple Delaware horse-and-rider motif, and the even simpler Connecticut oak tree. The remaining 23 states chose, voluntarily and deliberately, to be represented for decades to come by outline maps, static buildings, unreadable slogans, tiny statues, blobby scenery, and crowded conglomerations of kitsch.
What part of "less is more" don't people understand?