Patricia Moore is the recipient of the 2019 National Design Award for Design Mind. From 1979 to 1982, Moore traveled throughout North America disguised as elder women—her body altered to simulate the normal sensory changes associated with aging—to better respond to people, products and environments. Moore’s clients include Johnson & Johnson, Maytag, NASA, OXO, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble and Whirlpool, and she has designed more than 300 physical medicine and rehabilitation environments for healthcare facilities throughout North America, Europe and Japan. Named one of the world’s 40 most socially conscious designers by I.D. magazine, Moore is the author of numerous articles and books, including Disguised: A True StoryAgeing, Ingenuity & Design; and The Business of Aging (forthcoming).

What three adjectives define “good design” to you?

Beautiful, empathic, inclusive.

Who is a designer, historic or working today, that you would invite to a dinner party?

Leonardo DaVinci.

How do you relax on your day off?

I don’t take days off. But I am religious about filling each day with personal delights and, when possible, I get eight hours of sleep. I never save happiness for “tomorrow.”  I live each day as if it were my last, not with a sense of morbidity, but rather as a celebration of each breath.

What inspires you when you’re feeling stuck?

Whenever I find myself unsure of what comes next with a project, a change of scene is my best medicine. I bake. I weed the garden. I take a walk. I find a task that delivers immediate gratification and I am reenergized.

In an urban metropolis, a sleek silver and teal commuter train pulls into a station

Patricia Moore, Phoenix Arizona METRO Light Rail system (Phoenix, Arizona, 2008). Moore was the lead industrial designer. Photo: Phoenix Valley Metro

What do Cooper Hewitt and the National Design Awards mean to you?

Many years ago, on a surprisingly quiet day at the museum, I made my way up the grand staircase, like a little girl playing princess.  When I reached the top of the steps I was startled to see the broad smile of a gracious guard who announced, “You look like you belong here!”

I couldn’t have agreed more. Cooper Hewitt is my favorite toy box.  With every visit I am made more and more determined to create Designs that serve the lifestyle wishes and dreams of people worldwide. To be honored as “Design Mind,” with a National Design Award, exceeds my capacity of description.

How did you get your start in design?

Professor Leland Smith presented me with a stack of ID magazines in 1971, encouraging me to “Have a look. I think you would be good at this.”  How grateful I am for his prophecy.

How has mentorship influenced your career?

The recognition that there is no “I” in “Team” has served me well. I was raised to be inquisitive and by nature, I have always been comfortable reaching out to people, to learn from them and move forward on my path. I don’t believe in the fabled concept of the “self-made” person.

Looking over your body of work, is there one design project that holds personal significance for you?

The LoRad Mammographic Unit. Every year, as my body is positioned into a diagnostic machine that might reveal I have the most common form of cancer affecting women worldwide, I am humbled to know that 40 years ago, Dr. Wendy Logan and I created a standard for comfort and efficacy in that has been the basis for the evolution of the technology that exists today.

Magazine advertisement.

Patricia Moore, Promotional brochure for LORAD mobile diagnostic machine (USA, 1989). Photo: Courtesy of Patricia Moore

This year, an estimated 268,600 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. 62,930 women will be diagnosed with in situ breast cancer. An estimated 2,670 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. An estimated 42,260 people (41,760 women and 500 men) will die from breast cancer this year.

How do you think design will change in the next 20 years?

Design, with a deliberate capital “D”, will continue to evolve into the central consideration in all policies and practices.  Design is the critical thread that weaves the diversity of all peoples and places into a cohesive collaboration of equity and excellence.

What are your words of advice to the next generation of designers?

Always combine your heart with your head to create the best solutions for ALL people, by Design. Be bold. Stay brave. Spread joy.

About the National Design Awards

Text reading

Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards is the only annual program of its kind, bringing national recognition to the ways in which design enriches everyday life. Launched at the White House in 2000 as a project of the White House Millennium Council, the National Design Awards were established to promote design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world. Twenty years later, the National Design Awards continue to honor and support excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement in American design. Cooper Hewitt continues to broaden access nationwide to the vision and work of the country’s design leaders through National Design Week and NDA Cities, inspiring people of all ages to engage with design and design thinking.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the National Design Awards, Target will offer free admission to all visitors of Cooper Hewitt during National Design Week, Oct. 12–19, to make design accessible to all. Target will also sponsor a series of Cooper Hewitt programming broadening access to the vision and work of the country’s design leaders and inspiring people of all ages to engage with design and design thinking.

National Design Awards is made possible by generous support from Target. Additional support is provided by Design Within Reach, Facebook, and Bloomberg Philanthropies. National Design Award trophies are created by The Corning Museum of Glass. is powered by Behance, part of Adobe, Inc. National Design Week is made possible by major support from Target. Additional funding is provided by Altman Foundation, Siegel Family Endowment, and The Richard and Jean Coyne Family Foundation.

2 thoughts on “NDA 20 YRS | Q&A with Patricia Moore

I came to this article after listening to a programme about Pattie Moore on BBC Radio 4, see the link below. So interesting, and a terrific life in design. Inspirational.

Researching this for school.
Does anyone know of any products that Patricia Moore has influenced to help the elderly.
If you do please shoot me an email at
Many Thanks,

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *