To me, like to many who knew him, Bill’s untimely death came as a great shock to me personally, but that shock was followed immediately by anger.
Other than the considered words of his immediate peers from Cooper-Hewitt and IDEO, the web was immediately drenched with the same, cookie-cutter soundbite: Bill was ‘a British-born designer who designed the first laptop’. Obituaries, it seems, have gone the same way as everything else now: Karaoke.
To describe Bill in this way is to describe Brunel as a bloke who was a dab hand with a rivet gun.
When Dick Powell and I set up Seymourpowell in the middle 1980’s, we aimed our competitive sights as high as we could. There were two consultancies that we really thought had the forcewith them at that time: Frogdesign and Moggeridge, and we decided that we would want to be seen as viable competitors to these two prescient idealists.
But it was Bill that really took the reigns in the 1990’s, carrying on to form IDEO with a group of other brilliant people and to become, finally, the Gentle Giant of product, interaction and interface design.
The godfather of our expanding and evolving discipline.
A headlamp into the mutative landscape of the 21st Century.
And his final act was to give new shape and propulsion to the Cooper Hewitt in New York.
The last time I saw him was in New York at a big Design shindig by the Hudson. He was chatting to Sigourney Weaver. She was telling him how much she admired him. For all his works in helping buttress the design scene in North America, for his leadership and gentle charisma.
She seemed truly in awe. And like everyone else in the room, she knew exactly what he was.
As another of Bill’s contemporaries, Joni Mitchell, once observed: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it‘s gone”
Just when we needed him most, Bill’s departed.
We’re all diminished.
Richard Seymour, co-founder, Seymourpowell