"Larry Page confidently told Google’s rank and file that the company now cared about beauty and user experience. For insiders, it was an almost hallucinatory moment. This was Google. And this was Larry Page, a man who, when asked by one designer what Google’s aesthetic was, responded, "Pine." That is, a command-line email system common during Page's college years, whose main draw was its speed.
Page’s answer spoke to a philosophy that still dominates in the minds of many engineers: That the best design is no design at all, because speed is the only metric that matters. Adding anything charming to a computer interface simply slowed down. For many years, that made sense. In the dawn of computing, and the dawn of the internet, it didn’t matter of the computer spat out something ugly, so long as it spat out something as soon as you asked. This was a version of the so-called two second rule, formulated in the 1970s: If a computer didn’t respond within that time frame, humans naturally drifted away. For a computer to actually augment your mind, it had to respond almost instantaneously.
Pine. The very word represented decades of ingrained wisdom about computers. Yet in the four years between 2007 and 2011, something happened not just within Larry Page and Google, but in the broader culture of technology. Google’s transformation, from a company that shut down a well-needed redesign to one that creates beautifully designed software is really the story of how technology itself has evolved in the mobile era."