Bill Moggridge — A Design Icon

October 10, 2012

It is coming up on a month since the influential designer, and my personal mentor, Bill Moggridge, died. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to point you to this great man's work if you don't already know about it.

Credited with the design of the first laptop (the Grid Compass) along with a host of other groundbreaking products, Bill left an indelible mark on the practice of design. He coined the term interaction design and was an early proponent of including social scientists as full time members of design teams. As co-founder of IDEO, along with David Kelley and Mike Nuttall, Bill promoted the human-centered approach to design that became the core principle of the firm that I have the good fortune to head up today.

Bill had a profound impact on my life personally both as a mentor and friend. I first met him when, on a Saturday morning, he visited my graduate design show and quizzed me about my work. I didn't do a great job of defending it, but I guess he saw enough to agree to me joining his office. Working with Bill opened my eyes to the real potential of design to have positive impact on people's lives while disabusing me of the idea that a narrow focus on aesthetics was a worthwhile pursuit for a designer. He was never content with something that was merely a more attractive version of what had come before. He wanted to meet the real and deep needs of people by figuring out how to craft technology so that it fit seamlessly into their lives.

As he moved from doing design to telling stories about design, he wrote the book Designing Interactions, a rich set of interviews that chart the development of interaction design from its earliest days in Silicon Valley. More recently Bill had taken on the directorship of the Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design in New York and was looking to guide that institution’s progress to be a national voice in design and design education.

If you are at all interested in how this talented and delightfully humorous man impacted the world, then I encourage you to check out this movie at the Cooper-Hewitt's website, as well as this site that showcases many individual memories of Bill.

(posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)