When us designers start off designing a home page, we invariably create at least one variation that’s based on the Apple.com home page: a large hero graphic and three or four smaller promo tiles below that. That basic framework that Apple perfected is essentially a reference design.
I think it’s a testament to the quality of work that comes out of Cupertino that most of their designs, whether it’s product, OS UI, advertising, print or online is held as the reference standard. Having worked at Apple, I can assure you that seemingly simple and elegant design (product shot with a headline set in Apple Myriad on a white background) is not as easy as it seems. Besides, what other company can you name that has sparked such design trends such as colored plastic, gel-like buttons, and glassy navigation tabs?