Here's a little drainage project I took on a few months ago and it has really worked out. Prior to installing what essentially amounts to a dry creek bed, my client was experiencing wash out of his mulch during heavy rain.
Several thought processes are required when eliminating a surface runoff drainage problem. First, you want to determine what type of solution will work best. French drains clearly would not be appropriate (they are, in fact, overly used, often, poorly installed, and seldom do they correct the problem); A basin w/ grate and underground piping would work, but a 12" thick, concrete retaining wall was in the path of the runoff outlet making this option an impossibility. So, surface drain (ie. dry creek bed) was the ticket.
Second, you need to anticipate the amount of water that might run through your system and create it so that it is large enough. Also, you must determine the optimum point of runoff entry. In this case, that was pretty obvious. What was neat about this project was being able to turn the water movement to where I wanted it to go...quite nearly a 180 degree turn!
Lastly, consider aesthetics. Sure, it's a drain system. But that doesn't mean it can't be perty!