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Cooper-Hewitt Museum Names Bill Moggridge Director

Bill Moggridge, who designed the first laptop computer and cofounded the design firm Ideo, becomes director of the Cooper-Hewitt museum.

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As the newly appointed director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Bill Moggridge aims to make the institution on Manhattan’s Upper East Side one of the leading international design authorities in the world.

Moggridge, who picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award from the museum last fall, takes over the post from interim director Caroline Baumann. She assumed that role when Paul Walker Thompson exited last summer after an eight-year run to become president of London’s Royal College of Art.

During an interview Wednesday, Moggridge, who designed the first laptop computer and cofounded the design firm Ideo, offered a brushstroke of some of the initiatives he plans to address as of March 29. In addition to making the museum an arbiter of design around the globe, he said he was hired to enhance its exhibitions — both physical and virtual — and to establish the museum as the preeminent national design resource. He noted how other countries have design councils and universities that help to further their respective expertise abroad.

“We want to try to help people understand what design is and how it develops,” said Moggridge, adding that would involve bolstering awareness among high schoolers and professionals.

Moggridge, 66, said he was keen to apply for the museum’s director post since it would allow him to have a far greater reach to inform a wider range of people about the many disciplines, interconnectivity and power of design. This latest move marks the third phase of his career, which began in 1969 when he founded his design firm in London. In 1991, he merged his company with those of David Kelley and Mike Nuttall to form Ideo, which now has offices in London; Palo Alto, Calif.; San Francisco; Chicago; Boston; New York; Munich, and Shanghai. After Tim Brown was named president and chief executive officer in 2000, Moggridge was freed from day-to-day operations to write books, hold conferences and teach about design. His latest book, “Designing Media,” is due out this fall.

With 70 full-time staffers and a $14 million operating budget for fiscal year 2010, the Cooper-Hewitt is in the midst of a $64 million capital campaign that will create 60 percent more gallery space, a new library and additional classrooms for its burgeoning master’s program. A $10 million goal — nearly $7 million of which is already raised — is also under way for endowment needs.

In other news, the museum has been awarded a $600,000 grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to develop “Design for the Other 90%,” an exhibition staged in 2007, into an ongoing series that will focus on design solutions that will address the 90 percent of the world’s population that is not traditionally serviced by the professional design community.

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