Bill Moggridge, a founder of the design firm IDEO who is widely credited with designing the first laptop computer in 1980, has been named director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York.
Mr. Moggridge will start in March, replacing Paul Thompson, who left after eight years in July to become the rector, or president, of the Royal College of Art in London. Caroline Baumann, the museum’s deputy director, has been serving as the acting director.
“We look to Bill as someone who has a national and international reputation in the design world,” said Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s under secretary for history, art and culture, who served as chairman of the search committee.
Having spent the first 20 years of his career designing high-tech products like the Grid Compass — reputedly the first laptop computer — and having lately focused on coordinating interdisciplinary design teams at IDEO, Mr. Moggridge, 66, said he was ready for a new, more far-reaching challenge.
“I really thought my main goal in life was to design stuff,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “To have a national opportunity on a much greater scale is very exciting.”
Mr. Moggridge will take over the Cooper-Hewitt, which is based in the Andrew Carnegie Mansion on Fifth Avenue, in the midst of the largest renovation in its history. The $64 million project will create at least 60 percent more exhibition gallery space, a new library and additional classroom space for the museum’s master’s program.
Mr. Moggridge, who studied industrial design at the Central School of Design in London, founded a design firm in London in 1969 and added a second office in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1979. In 1991, he merged his company with those of David Kelley and Mike Nuttall to form IDEO, a global design firm that now has offices in Palo Alto, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York, London, Munich and Shanghai.
Earlier this year, Mr. Moggridge received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cooper-Hewitt’s National Design Awards at the White House. Among the products IDEO has designed under his leadership are the SoftBook, a leather-bound electronic reading device that makes the print larger with a stroke of the finger. He designed a microwave oven for Hoover with soft, rounded “bump’’ controls that collapse slightly when touched.
He has served as adviser to the British government on design education in the 1970s, as a trustee of the Design Museum in London in the ’90s, and as a consulting associate professor in the design program at Stanford University since 2005. He will be moving from Palo Alto to New York for the job.
He is not coming in with “preconceived notions” about how to change Cooper-Hewitt, he said. “One of the things I like to ask is how-might-we questions,” he added. “They imply a collegiality.”
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