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01.06.2010
Mr. Technology Takes on Design
Co-founder of IDEO tapped for top post at Cooper-Hewitt
The selection signals a fresh direction for the 113-year-old museum.
Courtesy Cooper-Hewitt
moggridge
Courtesy ideo/Nicolas zurcher
 
Moggridge's GRID Compass, the first laptop.
don fogg
 
 

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has named Bill Moggridge as its new director. Credited as the designer of the first laptop computer, the GRiD Compass, Moggridge, 66, is a co-founder of IDEO, an internationally known design consultancy with five national offices. Moggridge is based in the Bay Area.

“Bill Moggridge is an entrepreneur, innovator and visionary leader in the design world,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough in a statement. “The Smithsonian and Cooper-Hewitt are poised on the edge of a new era and having Bill Moggridge as director of our National Design Museum offers exciting prospects for the future.”

In selecting someone from the private sector, the Cooper-Hewitt, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution, bypassed the usual pool of design curators and museum officials. MoMA design curator Paola Antonelli, Aaron Betsky of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and design consultant Chee Perlman, to name a few, all passed through the wrought-iron gates for inconclusive interviews in the two years since Paul Thompson stepped down as director. Moggridge also brings a strong background in technology to the job—so strong that it begs the question as to what will happen to the museum’s vast and incomparable collection of historic Grand Tour posters, snuff boxes, and fauna-shaped silver spoons.

Moggridge’s professional bonafides are in good order. “As a practicing designer, Bill is very well qualified to create a new model for design museums moving forward,” said Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum in London. “He’s someone with tremendous respect and goodwill in the design community.”

The message should be clear to all that the appointment signals a new direction for the institution, which is currently undergoing an expansion. “Every generation defines what we mean by design,” Sudjic said. “It’s a very fresh, original selection.”

Among numerous professional accolades, this past year the museum bestowed on Moggridge the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Alan G. Brake