Cooper-Hewitt Names Laptop Inventor and IDEO founder as Chief

A grand-daddy of interaction design will lead the National Design Museum.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum loves them some Bill Moggridge. They’ve just tapped the 66-year-old, who’s fresh from being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at their National Design Awards, as director. He’ll assume the role this coming March.


Moggridge is a leading figure of interface and technology design. In 1982, he designed the world’s first laptop computer, the GRiD Compass, whose clamshell design has become an industry standard. In 1991, he merged his own design studio with that of David Kelley to form a little design firm called IDEO. But in the past decade or so, he’s primarily been an educator and writer, having penned Designing Interactions, a bible of interaction design. (He also just appeared in the excellent design-documentary, Objectified.) For a (long) taste of Moggridge’s mind at work, here’s a video of him speaking at Stanford’s Design School, where he’s a professor, about important moments in the history of interaction design:

It should be noted that director of the museum has less to do with day-to-day curating of exhibitions, and more to do with presenting a vision for the museum and a public face.

In the latter respect, Moggridge arrives at a pivotal time: He’ll be overseeing the final stretch of $64 million capital campaign, begun in 2006, which has already raised $54 million. Once that money’s in hand, Moggridge will presumably help guide a 60% increase in exhibition space at the museum.

And what might the museum begin focusing on? Moggridge’s own career offers a clue: He’s a guru of human/computer interactions and technology design in general. With any luck, the museum will refocus itself on design as an everyday solution for pressing challenges being wrought by societal change. (For example, How do you design so much interactivity and content into something as tiny as a touch screen phone?)


Perhaps on a related note: The Cooper-Hewitt just got a $600,000 grant to revisit Design for the Other 90%, a landmark 2007 exhibition that surveyed design solutions for the developing world.

Could we maybe suggest a first project? Renaming the so-called “Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum”–yes, the comma is in the formal name–to something that actually conveys its role in the public sphere.

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.