Cooper Hewitt Design Museum Gets the Big IDEO


Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, located on the northern stretch of Manhattan’s Museum Mile, may not be MoMA in terms of visitor attendance and high-profile starchitecture, but let’s call it the not-so-Little Engine That Could. Founded in 1897, it’s the only Smithsonian museum (out of 19 total) residing in New York, and the one and only civic institution exclusively devoted to the collection and exhibition of design objets in the US. The Cooper-Hewitt presents a bevy of National Design Awards each year as well, like the lifetime achievement honor bestowed upon IDEO co-founder Bill Moggridge in 2009. (Seriously: he pioneered the world’s first laptop computer.) Where’s Moggridge now, do you ask? And what’s an IDEO?

Cooper-Hewitt announced today that Bill Moggridge will step in as its new director this March: yay Bill! This could be a sign that the universe does indeed have a natural order. Moggridge first began an industrial design firm in London in 1969 that merged with IDEO in 1991, IDEO being a global design consultancy that gets big commissions — we’re not talking letterpressed stationery here — with everyone from Apple to Philips to Muji. (Interestingly, former director Paul Thompson left last summer to become president of the Royal College of Art in London, where the RDI Moggridge taught once upon a time.)

Also of note: IDEO curated an exhibition of items from Cooper-Hewitt’s permanent collection for IDEO Selects in 2007-2008. Some of the timeless picks below:

Child’s chair by Charles and Ray Eames (1944) and ts502 portable radio manufactured by Briovega (1964).

USALite Swivelhead flashlight (1941) and Valentine portable typewriter by Olivetti (1969).

Divisumma 18 electronic printing calculator by Mario Bellini (1973) and Build the Town prototype by Ladislav Sutnar (1941).

And a selection of more recent work by IDEO:

IDEO riffed on five everyday domestic products using BASF’s Ultrason polymer: a cool-to-the-touch kettle, a soft-edged transparent toaster, a clothes hanger, a lamp, and a hairdryer.

IDEO takes on the ho-hum aspect of everyday things like thermostats, switches, and plugs in its book I Miss My Pencil . The retooled thermostat, a minimalist square that you control with your lungs, is about “making our interaction with such objects more human.”

More than 23,000 users have downloaded copies of IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit. Web entrepreneur Avi Solomon sez: “This is essentially a complete methodology to power millions of garage innovation factories and should be the necessary component of any high-school kid’s education.” Download here.

Billed as a way for drivers to maximize fuel economy, IDEO’s collaboration with Smart and Ford yielded a hybrid dashboard called SmartGauge for the Ford Fusion that uses an “all-digital, LCD screen instrument cluster with lively animations” to prompt drivers on good driving habits.

Tell us: what are you looking forward to under Moggridge’s tenure?