I didn't get to contribute much to Drupal 6 before it happened. I was still learning how to use the toolset the Drupal community uses for these things, and after one successful attempt to contribute to core, I decided to focus my attention on contrib for a while. It's been more than a year since that time (probably closer to two) and I'm much more comfortable and familiar with these tools, as well as having a much better idea of what it is that Drupal is "all about".
Drupal has a lot of strong suites. It's more of a framework than it is a content management system, which frees us up to extend and alter as we like. That being said, Drupal's theme engine is probably one of the best (maybe THE best) and was a deciding factor in our choosing to use it long term. Phptemplate was introduced around the time we joined the Drupal community (4.7) and it has gotten more and more flexible from that day till this one. That being said it has a bit of a learning curve, as does anything in Drupal, and the community hasn't attracted the number of designers they'd really like to have probably as a result of it. When people think Drupal, they think "flexible", not "pretty". The truth is that it can be both, but perception is often a stronger shaper of reality than fact is.
With these things in mind a small group of Drupal developers have been toiling to make Drupal 7 the most designer friendly Drupal yet. Drupal's default output was non-existent before Drupal 6, that meaning that there was no "core" output that was essentially unthemed. The improvements to phptemplate in Drupal 6 changed this, but there was still no way to access it. To rectify this, a new theme, "Stark", has been added to Drupal core 7. This made obvious some seriously ugly code and also opened up the chance for us to kill two birds with one stone. In a single effort we can both clean up this ugly code as well as make Drupal 7 more friendly to designers who might give us a second look if they could easily create css only themes.
With that history out of the way I'm very happy to announce that the first of these important patches has landed in Drupal 7 and the new page template is now committed to CVS. John Albin, Jeff Eaton, Jeff Geerling, myself and many others have helped to push this project through to completion through reviews, revisions, encouragements and seeds of inspiration. I often find it more than a little amazing that I get to work in this community of developers who really do have the same goal in mind: The BEST Drupal Possible.