Remembering Bill Moggridge, Designer and Museum Director

Bill Moggridge, Founder of the design firm IDEO, designer of the first laptop computer, and Director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, passed away on Saturday at the age of 69.

Moggridge is undeniably one of the great design luminaries of our time. I didn’t know that he was ill but given the prompt appearance of a comprehensive and well produced memorial on the Cooper-Hewitt’s site– — it can’t have been a surprise.

I only met him once, after a lecture he gave at the Design Criticism program in November of 2010. It was a canned talk about the Cooper-Hewitt, little more than a PowerPoint museum brochure, really. Afterwards, at the reception, I was simultaneously irked by his lecture and awed by his stardom. I’m ashamed to admit that I totally bungled our brief interaction. I rather bluntly asked him if the Cooper-Hewitt had guns in its collection (I’d only just begun my research into that topic which eventually turned into my thesis). Moggridge, standing near the bar and holding his little plastic cup of red wine, was clearly uninterested, replied that he didn’t know if the Cooper-Hewitt had guns and turned away dismissively.

And that was that.

Can’t blame the guy. I knew that they didn’t have guns but I wanted him to tell me that they didn’t and why. I know now, after having gotten a little practice in the fine art of getting important people to divulge their secrets, that my opener should have been more of a tease than a confrontation. I blew it. And now I’ll never have the chance to get inside his head.

In my mind, it’s like there were two Bill Moggridges: the charismatic, genius designer and design thinker who created iconic products and got Michelle Obama to back the National Design Awards and then the mildly  bored old man who didn’t feel like indulging the provocations of an uninformed wanna-be design critic.