Cooper C. Woodring, FIDSA (1937-2021)

Oct 20 2021 - 8:53am


The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) remembers Cooper C. Woodring, FIDSA, former IDSA President, expert witness, and industrial designer who touched countless lives in our community.

Woodring served as IDSA President from 1985 to 1986, Executive Vice President in 1984, and New York Chapter Chair in 1978. He spent the majority of his career as manager of product design and new product development at JCPenney Company in New York City, when the company was the third-largest retailer in America.

After earning a bachelor's degree in industrial design from the University of Kansas and a master's degree in design from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Woodring became a successful designer and advocate for industrial design at the national level. He was the first industrial designer to address The Conference Board, a prestigious Fortune 500 organization, and received an appointment from President Ronald Reagan to head the US Information Agency’s Cultural Exchange Mission, "Design in America," behind the then-Iron Curtain.  

Woodring was an accomplished expert witness in design patent litigation. Holding over 30 US design and utility patents, Woodring testified before the US Congress in 1991 on The Industrial Design Innovation and Technology Act (HR1790 & S791). In 2012, he represented Apple in its litigation against Samsung.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invited Woodring to their first annual Design Day in 2006, as well as in 2010, 20152016, and 2017. Notably, Woodring co-founded IDSA's Design Protection Section, which continues today with Joel Delman, IDSA as Chair and Lance Rake, IDSA as Vice Chair.

In 2008, Woodring collaborated with Perry J. Saidman, Esq., A/IDSA, to teach an IDSA Continuing Education seminar called, “How to Serve as An Expert Witness in Design Patent Litigation." In 2015, he teamed up with Christopher V. Carani, Esq., A/IDSA, on a similar seminar for industrial designers. 

Woodring received IDSA's highest honors: the Personal Recognition Award, now Individual Achievement Award, in 1992, and IDSA Fellowship. He also was a member of the Intellectual Property Owners Association. 

His inventions ranged from decorative Venetian blinds to a handheld food processor, from bicycle brakes to nesting, injection-molded rocking chairs. He represented the Museum of Modern Art's Permanent Collection in New York City and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. 

Woodring served two terms as mayor of his then-hometown of Plandome, NY. He was a community-oriented and generous collaborator, always willing to help his fellow designers, IDSA members, and friends.

He is fondly remembered and very much missed. 

Pictured, from left: Cooper Woodring, FIDSA, with Mark Dziersk, FIDSA, and Fred Bould, IDSA, at the Samsung Closing Night Party, IDSA International Conference,  2012

Pictured, from left: Charles Mauro, CHFP, IDSA, Cooper Woodring, FIDSA, Ronald Kemnitzer, FIDSA, and Peter Bressler, FIDSA, on the Design Expert Witness panel, USPTO Day, 2015


"Cooper has been a mentor and friend to so many of us! I’ll remember him as the architect of the most significant of IDSA’s initiatives during his decades in the profession. He was instrumental in the planning of the highly successful WorldDesign Conference in 1985 and after his IDSA presidency, we had greater financial strength as an organization. He coordinated and led the 1989 ICSID Interdesign in Toyama, Japan, testified on the profession’s behalf to Congress, charted a path for entrepreneurship and product licensing and established our Design Protection Section, sharing his knowledge by conducting a course and writing a book on how to become an expert witness. His influence, wisdom and leadership will be greatly missed. I extend my sincere condolences to Cooper’s family."

- Nancy Perkins, FIDSA

"Cooper was a wonderful friend and mentor to me. While I was IDSA Executive Director through the ‘90s, he was a constant source of perspective and valuable counter-intuition. He helped to strengthen the place of Design in business. Knowing Cooper was a blessing to all who learned from him."

- Robert T. Schwartz, MID, FIDSA, DMI

"A great designer and a wonderful human being. Always willing to pitch in when needed, and always the nicest person in the room. What a loss."

- Ed Dorsa, FIDSA

"I met Cooper many years ago through IDSA and served with him on IDSA’s Board, taught with him and shared an office at the University of Kansas, attended his first expert witness seminar, and talked with him frequently. He was always the smartest, kindest, and friendliest person in the room. Cooper was a true friend to me and countless other people inside and outside of IDSA. I will remember him as a great friend, a mentor, a confidant, a great storyteller and a hell of a designer. I’ll miss him. Rock Chalk, Cooper!"

 - Ronald Kemnitzer, FIDSA

"It's been about 30 years since Cooper and I talked at an IDSA conference. I remember his strategy of design and branding for JCPenney, especially the organization of product tags and department signage. ''It's been said that an engineer makes a product work, but an industrial designer makes a product so we can work it.' - Cooper Woodring

Generally, I hate shopping in department stores, but I enjoyed going to JCPenney years ago just to see what Cooper had done or managed through the work of other designers. I took one of my daughters to visit the store, showing her his strategy of merchandising design before she became the display designer of a competitor. JCPenney would still be a force if its owners and management simply continued to follow his design strategy and expanded its reach with technology.

But what I remember most about Cooper was his efforts to push for the professionalism of industrial design. Those were the objectives we agreed on while serving on the Board of IDSA. Industrial design grew as a profession under Cooper's leadership."

- Lloyd Philpótt

"Cooper is one of the all-time greats. Consummate designer, gentlemen, mentor, and friend. His decency and professionalism inspired all of us. He contributions to the field made profound impact in the life of every single designer practicing today, and this impact will be felt for many many many years to come. We all owe him a debt of gratitude, Which he would have casually brushed off as unnecessary. But most of all I’m gonna really miss him. I’m sad that I can no longer just pick up the phone and shoptalk about patents, or design, or share boating stories, and listen to a treatise on the high and low points of Grand Banks, or just share stories in general. He was a great story teller, and such a great friend to so many of us. Travel safe old friend."

- Charles Austen Angell, FIDSA

"One of my favorite people ever...A true gentleman with a fabulous smile and laugh. He was generous beyond measure too."

- Michelle Berryman, FIDSA

"From first meeting Cooper at JC Penney while a Syracuse University graduate student to years later serving together as an IDSA officer, he was a source of inspiration, great IDSA leader...We will miss you dearly Cooper!"

- Pascal Malassigné, FIDSA

"Cooper was a great mentor and even greater voice for the power of design and its role in improving the world and business...will miss his voice!"

- Betsy Goodrich, FIDSA

"I opposed Cooper many times in court and he was always a masterful and sometimes terrifying opponent. When the case was done he was a wonderful colleague and friend sharing his ideas, theories, and even clients. He made fundamental contributions to what it means to be a design patent expert witness."

- Charles Mauro, CHFP, IDSA

"I sure will miss Cooper. Always a source of wisdom and what a class act!"

- Stephen Wilcox, FIDSA

"He was true role model for me. I am sorry to see him go."

- Tim Fletcher, IDSA

"We have lost a kind human being, a caring mentor, and a pioneering designer. I will dearly miss him and forever cherish our friendship."

- Mahesh Daas

"This makes me very sad to hear. I met Cooper early in my career in the design patent legal community, and he was at all times nothing but a consummate gentleman and professional. We exchanged thoughts and e-mails about the design patent infringement test and he shared with me a fascinating paper he had written about design cognition and perception. I knew at that time I was speaking with a truly great design mind. Condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. Rest In Peace, sir."

- James Aquilina

Portrait by Seth Jacobson.

If you have memories to share of Cooper Woodring, FIDSA, please email membership [at] idsa [dot] org.