Speaking of design, I recently came across this video from 2013 by The Verge, where they profiled the teams behind Google’s apps and design language at the time.
Some of the words I’m hearing thrown around often in this video are “pretty” and “beautiful”. As you’ll know from the video linked to previously, design is beyond things being aesthetically pleasing and consistent across products. The only person that seemed to have some understanding of design was Matias Duarte, then Director of User Experience and now VP of Design at Google – I especially liked his term “practical imagination” to describe design.
While I’ll commend Google for sticking with this design language until now, a lot of their apps remain unpleasurable to use. They're borderline unusable, especially their web apps. Google Drives and Docs are particular offenders. YouTube’s famously flip-flopped with the overall design of their site and app (although nowadays that’s among the least of their problems).
The only somewhat pleasing and frictionless experiences I’ve had using Google products were with Gmail (when I still used it), Translate, Search (unsurprisingly), and Maps (especially Maps – can’t travel without it). But this is their bread and butter – these have been pretty serviceable products for a long time now. Besides these, I’m hard pressed to point to any shining examples of Google having delivered in the design department even after all this time.