Advertisement HOW Design Live Event Registration

The design world lost a champion on September 8 with the passing of Bill Moggridge, director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. The designer of the first laptop computer and co-founder of IDEO was 69 years old. Moggridge was director of the museum for only two years, but in that short time he guided the museum through a critical juncture, enhancing its visitor and exhibition facilities and oversaw a $54 million program to increase exhibition space by 60 percent. In addition, a National Design Library was created and moved forward with the restoration of the Carnegie Mansion’s historic structure.

Moggridge also worked toward accommodating the growth of Cooper-Hewitt’s permanent collection with a new off-site collection-storage and conservation facility. Phase One of the renovation project, involving work on the museum’s two townhouses, was completed in 2011 and includes the new National Design Library, an additional classroom, administrative and curatorial offices, and a new staff and public entrance from 9 East 90th Street. Phase Two, renovation of the Carnegie Mansion, commenced in 2012, and the new Cooper-Hewitt will reopen in 2014.

Shortly after opening his Silicone Valley design firm in 1979, Bill was hired by Grid, a start-up at the time, and charged with the task of designing a new type of portable computer. And thus, the laptop was born. Known as The Grid Compass this revolutionary concept of computing to-go sold for roughly $8000. A bit pricey for the average consumer, but popular with the military. The Compass also tagged along on the space shuttle beginning in 1983.

His work with Grid and the development of The Compass may have never happened without the serendipity of a chance meeting with John Ellenby, an engineer and founder of Grid. Ellenby happened to be sitting on the stairs, waiting for his neighbor.

Moggridge is also widely viewed as a father of the field of interaction design, a discipline that focuses on improving the human experience of digital products. Mr. Moggridge advanced this field through IDEO, the prominent product design firm he co-founded with Stanford professor, David Kelley and British designer, Mike Nuttal. IDEO gained international renown by creating forms for technology as well as products ranging from portable heart defibrillators to the Palm V, a sleek hand-held personal digital assistant. IDEO’s clients over the years included Procter & Gamble, Apple, Microsoft and Eli Lilly.

Moggridge was the author of the 2006 book, Designing Interactions. The book describes forty designers and how their ideas evolved from inspiration to outcome. Their stories give a fascinating look into entrepreneurial design development for technology and shaped how we interact with technology. Beyond that, a major theme of the book is that designers need to change their focus to think about shaping not only a physical object but also people’s experiences or interactions with it.

“I’ve always been interested in trying to understand people,” Moggridge once said in a lecture. “I think that’s part of design.”

Moggridge was born in London in 1943 and graduated from the Central School of Design. Among his British awards are the Royal Designer for Industry in 1988 and Prince Philip Designer’s Prize in 2010. The Cooper-Hewitt museum awarded him its National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2009. His career included lecturing in design at the London Business School, and membership on the steering committee for the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy. More recently, he was a consulting professor in the Joint Program in Design at Stanford University.

An outspoken advocate for the value of design in everyday life, Moggridge is survived by his wife of 47 years, Karin, and two sons, Alex and Erik. He made an indelible mark not only on the design community, but consumers-at-large. He will be missed.

Here is an audio interview with Debbie Millman, where he discusses, the evolution, design and life to come of the laptop, the 20 year arch of technology, the meaning of human-centered design and what his plans were at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Featured image courtesy of