Bill Moggridge, Interaction and Experience Design Pioneer, Leaves an Indelible Mark on Human Experience of Technology
September 8, 2012, Bill Moggridge passed away and with him the design profession lost one of its most influential voices and significant leaders of the past 40 years.
(Photo my Mayo Nissen, taken at the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design, 2010)
Bill pioneered ideas that shaped the scope of design. His work was itself a demonstration project of what design should be and how designers should approach their work.
Bill advocated for Big D Design, whereby he meant that design is far greater than a particular discipline and that as a process it integrates whatever insight will lead to a more comprehensively satisfying solution.
Having expanded to Silicon Valley with a new branch of his firm, ID Two, in 1979, Bill’s first big splash on the U.S. design stage came in 1982 when he accepted that year’s only Industrial Design Excellence Award from the Industrial Designers Society of America.
So comprehensively innovative was his team’s winning Grid Compass Computer that the jury had been unable to find anything else at its level. Already they could see the profound impact it would have on the yet-undefined field of laptop computing.
That’s when I met Bill and first heard of how the computer that was to define laptops had been developed in close collaboration with engineers. One or two other design firms had been applying an interdisciplinary model since the late ‘70s, most notably GVO, Inc.. But Bill was to take the concept much, much further.
Ultimately, Bill flung his Big D net to include psychologists, anthropologists, and anyone else likely to open doors on a better understanding of the human experience.
Experience Design’s Pater Familias
And therein lay his greatest contribution to the world of design, big or little “d”: The concept of experience design. Bill proposed that the purpose of design was to create an experience, not a product.
In fact, he was quoted as saying, “If there is a simple, easy principle that binds everything I have done together, it is my interest in people and their relationship to things.” (Wikipedia does not give its source.)
Today, our experiences are shaped by our interfaces with software and web sites, an escalation Bill foresaw in the mid-‘80s. He understood how a technology intended to make life easier could, in fact, make it full of aggravation if not dangerous error*.
Bill framed for us the disconnect between average people and technology, with its new languages and capabilities. He presented us with a petri dish of DNA, demonstrating the very long string of knowledge sources required to successfully mediate the experience.
Not only is Bill’s leadership indelibly written in his works, his teachings, his texts and, above all, in his personal proof-by-doing, his ideas have penetrated deeply and spread broadly. Collaborations are occurring that were not possible before he came on the scene. The design of our interactions with “products” (be they software, hardware, or environments) is not accidental or left to the perspective of one discipline, be it programmer, artiste, or engineer.
Needless to say, to truly design a satisfying experience, you need Big D. And for Big D you need a respect for the expertise of others and the ability to play the integrator. It’s a Big job, but someone has to do it. Why not Design?
*Unfortunately, not everyone paid attention to Bill regarding user interface challenges. Or perhaps the possibility of a perfect interaction is simply an oxymoron, as my experiences this morning attest. But I won’t whine.
Tribute to Bill Moggridge as director of the Cooper Hewitt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWkk9sr_GOs
Designing Interactions, by Bill Moggridge, published in 2007 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Interactions-Bill-Moggridge/dp/0262134748/ref=la_B001IGO628_1_1?ie=UTF8&;qid=1348163533&sr=1-1
Designing Media, published in 2010 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Media-Bill-Moggridge/dp/0262014858/ref=la_B001IGO628_1_2?ie=UTF8&;qid=1348163533&sr=1-2
Amazon has dedicated a page to him: http://www.amazon.com/Bill-Moggridge/e/B001IGO628/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1348163507&;sr=8-2-ent