The Cubicle: Free-Flowing Communication

August 11, 2008
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Today, the cubicle concept is not generally associated with “cutting edge,” but when Herman Miller Inc. first rolled out its Action Office, designed by Bob Probst (pictured left), it was revolutionary. In fact, it was named the most influential design in the second half of the 20th century by the World Design Congress. The original freestanding Action Office (1965) is shown above.

“In the process of putting together his own office, (Probst) was looking at all of the things he was concerned about as a newly minted business leader, in terms of communication, the flow of ideas and human traffic,” said Mark Schurman, director of corporate communications at Herman Miller.

“His arm of our business was going to be about ideas and innovation — sounds familiar when you think about what everyone talks about today — and he knew that the free flow of communication and collaboration was critical and that the offices as they had traditionally existed were not conducive of that.

“Within a matter of a couple of years, he had put forward a pretty aggressive agenda around a modern office design that would include furnishings.”

“It’s certainly been the butt of a lot of jokes, some of it well deserved,” said Schurman. But with the Action Office still in production (with updates, of course) and more than $8 billion of them installed — Herman Miller probably doesn’t mind the jokes too much.

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