I fully agree with Tuomas regarding the over-use of icons everywhere.
You can, in fact, set GTK+ (and thus, GNOME) applications to not display button icons. At first it may seem a little weird (as you may not be used to it), but not having icons in the dialog buttons will probably grow on you over a short time.
Here’s what you type in a terminal (or in the run dialog entry form if you hit alt-f2 or select “Run Application…” from your main menu) to turn off the button images:
echo gtk-button-images=0 >> ~/.gtkrc-2.0
(For those who may not know, it simply appends the text “
gtk-button-images=0” inside a GTK+ configuration file in your home directory, which tells GTK+ to turn off button images.)
Of course, this doesn’t change everything, but it does allow you to have cleaner looking buttons on dialogs and such.
Update: Jakub has a good comment on Tuomas’ blog: “Not only will cleansing the icon noise help with usability, it will also help with artwork maintainability.” (excerpt)