Design is by no means something that anybody can sit down and learn quickly or something that everybody is born understanding. Design skills are a gift that a select few on this earth are born with and now more than ever these people are very valuable in the technology industry. But, this wasn't always the case, most technology companies didn't pay much attention to design until somewhat recently. Google as a company is not exempt from this trend.
Nowadays, when you look at Google, Android especially, you see great design and attention paid to detail. Google and Android didn't use to be this way though. Just to add a bit of context here, Google didn't hire an actual visual designer until 2006, which is eight years after the search giant was founded. Google as a company was much more focused on data than it was on user experience or things looking pretty. Even after Google hired their first actual designer in 2006, he later quit only three years down the road to work for Twitter. His reason for quitting was made very public in a blog post that he published where he essentially said that Google lets the data effect the design much more than it should.
John Wiley is a designer at Google that has been working for the company for quite some time. When he talks about what design was like at Google not too long ago, it isn't pretty. "When we brought up design at Google, people used to scoff," he told Fast Company. From the picture painted by people who worked at Google during these times, it seems as though designers for the company were treated as if they weren't important. "It made it hard for us to hire great design talent because it didn't seem like we had the full measure of respect for design," also said by John.
Then the design revelation took place at Google in 2011 when Larry Page took back the reigns as CEO of the company. One of the first things Larry Page did as CEO did was tell the company that Google needed to begin focusing on what was now important, products looking and working good. This apparently caused a major shift within the company. Now the ignored designers were the ones leading the show in most cases. To give you an idea of how much of a design shift actually took place within Google, Material Design talks began way back in 2011. The idea was then refined and polished for three years before finally making its debut at Google I/O 2014 with Android Lollipop.
Google very quickly went from a company focused on nothing but the data to a company focused on beautiful and meaningful design. Google's Material Design is probably the biggest embodiment of that huge change and has become the design that we all know and love.