let's clear something up about "open" as to how it pertains to two different things in this case.
there is the open source OS, android. the OS is based on linux, and is open source. this means the OS kernel can be rewritten without the owner's permission, but credit must be given for derivative works. this means the OS can be reworked by anyone as they see fit.
the second "open" is the open handset alliance, for which google, t-mobile, and sprint are a part of. AT&T and verizon are not a part of the open handset alliance. what the OHA is designed to do is to set the standard for an open OS to be freely distributed and applied to a range of handsets, or is otherwise hardware agnostic. it has nothing to do with subsidy locking or inter-carrier compatibility; as you know tmo has joined att and verizon on LTE while sprint will be adopting wimax for their respective 4g technologies, and thus not compatible. in this case, the OHA is about hardware agnostic operating systems so that developers can create apps that can function on a deeper level of integration with MANY devices.
but as for the aesthetics, yeah... it's ugly IMO. but realize this is the ifrst handset in the open handset alliance and android program. there will be more hardware down the road of varying styles, all running android if this program gets off the ground.
as for the design, look to Google's mobile platform Director, Andy Rubin... he used to work for Danger and had designed the Sidekick. so now you know.