As something of a technoskeptic, I want to be careful to give credit where due. I do think that we're reaching a point where wider broadband access, more powerful processing, and the development of protocols and languages is producing really beautiful web design. For a long while I was bummed that the Internet was becoming more functional but no more beautiful. I think people are recognizing that bringing outstanding visuals to their sites and services can distinguish themselves in a crowded industry. Flipboard, which recently got ported to tablets, is a good example. I mentioned the other day that the new Myspace (however inherently silly you find Myspace) has truly well-done web design. That's particularly funny, given Myspace's former status as an ugly, cluttered mess. People are finally grasping that what looks good is not a ton of small images and a million buttons but large, high-definition images and a few elegantly laid out choices.
Check out this interactive preview of a recent book on my field. Click the photo of the book to expand and manipulate. Beautiful! A bunch of people in my department study visual rhetoric, the ways in which arguments are embedded within visual presentations and how they are (or aren't) effective in persuasion. A lot of really interesting things are happening in the visual presentation of information and design languages. It's an exciting time.