I'm wondering the same thing. I don't want my bike to be a rolling billboard for some manufacturer's logo. I DO want color choices other than combinations of black, red and white!
If I have to ride something which has little more visual appeal than an old bike with a spray-can paint job, why not just keep riding that old bike? All the gimmickry they keep coming out with to make people want new bikes...perhaps if they'd try a little visual appeal.....
And the groupsets are just as bad. The Ultegra on my '13 Spesh has black carbon(or is it just plastic?) levers....looks no different than something from Walmart.
By comparison, my old Klein with it's beautiful "Carribean linear fade" blue paint and shiny DA7700 levers, looks 100x better. I don't see myself buying a new bike anytime soon! In fact, when I do buy another bike, it'll be a C&V, from the days when they made real bikes..
I don't buy the premise that there was a time when paint jobs were generally more elaborate. There are always standouts, but generally bikes are single color with brand graphics.
I might even argue that bikes are more graphical now than they've ever been, because it can be hard to find a plain, solid color design now.
Take a look at Trek, for example. In '00, you could get a red road bike with white brand/model designations. By '05, they were full into the curvy, multicolor accents. By '10, the panel painting thing started, where they'd create a line on a portion of a tube to mark a contrasting color block on the underside, for example. It's basically the same thing they're doing still, doing lots of graphic detail work to give visual interest rather than just painting the frame a solid color.
So yeah, I get that matte black is en vogue, but I don't agree there is less graphic design than before, and in fact think there is more. It may be there are fewer color options for any given model, though, and even that paint trends are towards matte finishes and abrupt transitions, and less of the glossy fades, but again, that's different from saying there's less graphic design.
I'd guess that "less graphic design" is partially based on what bikes you see when you shop for a new bike. If look at bikes online you'll probably see a lot of different designs, but if you shop strictly in stores (like me) then what you look at is a lot more limited. I've seen pictures of some really fancy graphic designs done on bikes that I believe are newer designs, but at the stores here the bikes are generally limited to a simple color + logo aside from the bikes aimed at children.
My current bike is several years old and is a dark red with a sort of abstract black and white pattern on it. I really like it. The newer bikes I've looked at have been alright, but definitely more plain then what was available here, say, 3 years ago. I guess simplicity is in style right now?