We're all about simplicity here. The design we choose will be something straightforward that is easy to turn into clean, minimalist mark-up. (We're software engineers, what did you expect?) Graphics (apart from minor things like a texture here and there) should convey information of some kind or not be present. Iconography, when used well, does count as "conveys information".
Our site will be *extremely* text-heavy, so good typography is essential. Please use fonts that are under some reasonable license for use with @font-face and either free or cheap-and-royalty-free. If your design uses iconography, elements from an icon font that meets the font criteria above are preferable to images we'll have to hire a designer to match whenever we add an icon.
Our current design uses pull-quotes to break it up without needing a bunch of useless stock imagery, and I'd like to keep doing that on our more text-heavy pages.
As I talk to my team about content, I have a growing concern about the number of menu items we may end up with, and how that will look. I'd like to be able to accommodate 6-8 items in the main menu, and have a place to set up a secondary (context-sensitive) menu should the need arise in some sections of the site without ruining the look or overwhelming the user with links.
We don't want to look like a tech startup. The problems we seek to fix are not sexy, they're part of the nitty-gritty inner workings that most people take for granted, but without which the internet would break down. We want a look that is easy to to read, and that communicates what we're about.
Don't be afraid to use some color, but don't go wild. Our logo (attached) is currently blue, but while we <3 the logo, we are open to changing the color to fit the web site. We'll probably go with a dark-on-light theme because they are generally more readable, but if you have an idea for a good-looking, easy-on-the-eyes light-on-dark theme please submit it!
Bonus points for a subtle-enough-to-still-be-professional nod to retro computing, the early days of the internet, or hacker lore (google "jargon file" if you're not sure what I refer to).