The iPod, a now–ubiquitous cultural artifact, is Apple's most celebrated industrial design product. Ive, the head of Apple's design group, has been overhauling the company's hardware design with his team since 1997, using a new palette of materials characterized most prominently by translucent polycarbonate plastic. The iPod, a portable hard drive initially used exclusively as an MP3 player, introduced stainless steel into Apple's material palette. The iPod exponentially expanded the typical capacity of a music device within a physical framework that was significantly smaller, cleaner, and more intuitive than any similar player.
The first-generation iPod is characterized by a mechanical scroll wheel featuring four navigational buttons along its circumference and a black-and-white text screen. The iPod's data and its power supply are administered and transferred through a USB cord to a base computer or other power outlet, thus eliminating the need for any collateral, detachable parts besides the earphones. The first-generation iPod has substantially influenced the quality and elegance not only of portable music devices, but of electronic products in general. The iPod has raised the public's expectations for all consumer products, thus stimulating manufacturers to recognize the importance of good design and to incorporate design considerations at the highest levels of their corporate structures.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 183