William Moggridge Was Integral To Laptop's Design

Sep 10, 2012
Originally published on September 10, 2012 6:26 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to someone else who knew a little something about design: William Moggridge. He died on Saturday. And even if you don't know his name, you know his work.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Moggridge created the clamshell design of the laptop: the way it opens and closes.

DAVID KELLEY: He designed the elegance of how the display comes and covers the keyboard. And that's patented.

BLOCK: That's David Kelley, who, along with Moggridge, founded IDEO, a design and innovation company. The first version of that laptop was called the GRiD Compass. Released back in 1982, it weighed roughly 10 pounds, cost $8,000 and was used mostly by the U.S. military and NASA.

CORNISH: By today's standards, the Compass is bulky, but it forever changed computers, as Moggridge later spoke about.

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WILLIAM MOGGRIDGE: There are very few opportunities that a designer has in a career to do something which is truly precedent setting. You know, you don't predict that it's going to spread in the way it spread. But it was clear that it was very important in the sense of being very innovative.

CORNISH: That's Moggridge in a tribute video released yesterday by the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. In 2010, he became its director. And that appointment shows how influential Moggridge was as an industrial designer. Again, David Kelley.

KELLEY: He changed the professional design completely from thinking of it as we're going to design these objects, we're going to make these things beautiful, to we're going to design the way these things fit into people's lives, we're going to care about the people. I think he was the first one to really get that message.

BLOCK: And Kelley adds, he was also fun to work with, lightening up boring meetings.

KELLEY: You know, he'd stand up and sing some old British drinking song, and he would just make everybody realize, you know, like, this can be fun.

BLOCK: Kelley says Moggridge succeeded as a designer, in part, because he was always open to new ideas.

KELLEY: He had like a child's mind. He was totally open to anything. Always thought anybody was interesting and everything that happened was interesting.

BLOCK: William Moggridge changed the way all of us interact with computers. He died Saturday of cancer. He was 69. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.