Yeah, there is. A lot.
Some time ago, Gimmie came up. Check this and this. It's pretty cool, imho, and a relatively new approach on how config screens, app lauchers and search interfaces should look. And we need it.
Have you ever seen the compiz/beryl configuration modules? Here is a screenshot, and think for a moment how horrible it is. It doesn't SEEM complex, no, it looks good. No problem there (and I personally love that theme). But now, look for something. You have categories on the top. Then subcategories on the left. Then those are each divided in tabs. And those tabs contain a scrollable area with a huge bunch of options. It's not that unique, this is cool as well... And this is an older version of the beryl settings manager, as far as I can tell.
That's much. I mean, really much. I'm used to checking the settings of most apps I use, see if I like the defaults, if I want to change things. That's almost impossible with beryl/compiz... It's just too much. Now, they have a new version. And it's better. Much better.
Why? it DOES show more stuff in one window, right? Yes, it does. But still, it's less intimidating as all these sub-sub-sub divisions. It still seems less. Stuff is easier to find, with much less mouseclicks. And this is showing up in more spots: check the new gnome configuration tool. And be sure to take time to read the blog, it's interesting...
Maybe here's an idea for Rafael as well: see further down the page, how THEY handle selection of a category.
Of course, many of the great ideas in that new control center aren't so very new. Wow, a 'nifty filter' function ;-) But still, its a good design. Based on an evolutionary approach, at least since the gimmie stuff. But imho - a great result. I'd love to see KDE developers play with this, and probably adopt it (maybe with improvements).
Edit: Indeed, as I said, many of the ideas aren't that new. Actually, only the sidebar is new compared to what Kubuntu has made (Cyrille just mentioned it), and what will be the KDE 4 control center. And, afaik, it does one thing better than the Gnome Control center: It doesn't start each control module as a separate app/window, but embeds them. Yeah, KDE technology rocks ;-)
But the sidebar offered by Ubuntu might fit well in this scheme, imho. Might even eliminate the advanced tab. And the forward and back buttons could be in the sidebar (on top?) as well.