The new style pane is great for quickly applying new formatting and here's a possible way to further that speed. In the Style pane consider adding an option called "Per Object Format" next to the "No Field Selected" dropdown. When clicked it would add a field "mfd_format" to the table. Similar to the theming option, it would allow creating unique format options controlled by the “mfd_format” field. The idea is to get the speed of graphic programs for map making (assign format without typing in a table with every object) but with a strong tie to a table so that those objects can be tracked just like traditional GIS thematic formatting.
It would display the default format as a 0 entry in the table. Click an add button below the default entry to create additional format entries. The entry in “mfd_format” would increment as 1,2,3,4,… as new ones are added. After adding an entry modify the formatting buttons above to assign the format to that option. Each entry would display a small icon previewing it’s format as a point, line, and area. Just like with the current theming, have an indicator to show that per object formatting is on. Maybe have a darker gray background for each format button.
When getting ready to add more drawing/label objects, select whatever format option you like then add an object to your layer and it gets that formatting and it enters the format number in the “mfd_format” field. No need to manually type an entry in the table to assign the format.
To change an objects formatting select one or more objects and click on a format entry and they all get assigned that format number.
So in this case each unique value in the “mfd_format” field represents a set of selections for all the format buttons. Another way to look at this is to consider it as a way to theme all the format buttons in one display.
For more functionality, perhaps allow saving/retrieving preset group of styles for faster setup (this is needed with thematic formatting as well). Perhaps have the mfd_format number actually reference some standard values and thus be transferable with other computers. Perhaps allow giving the format an alias name, such as “water” or “firehouse”.
Not really new ideas here but I'm thinking the new style pane lends itself to adding this option now.