The New York Times ran an interesting iPod-related article in its Fashion & Style section: The World at Ears’ Length (free subscription required). iPods are so popular in New York that people are walking around like zombies, tuning each other out.
What I find interesting is the fact that Apple’s designers scored yet another home run with the distinctive white earbuds and cord. Nearly every headphone out there uses a black cord, because it’s the Way It’s Supposed to Be. That would have clashed with the iPod’s pure whiteness (or white pureness), so of course they had to be white. Was it a bold design decision to make an iPod owner immediately identifiable? I’m guessing probably not, but that’s the end result. Even if you don’t own an iPod, it’s cool to make it look like you do.
Most companies will never learn this, even after all the iPod fawning and attention and sales, but outstanding design really does matter. A lot.