Just as the heart of Generation X is turning 40 years old, guess what else just celebrated its 40th birthday? The office cubicle! Or as Douglas Coupland coined the term, “veal fattening pens.” The cubicle was designed by the late Robert Propst at the furniture design company Herman Miller, which launched it as the “Action Office” in July 1968.
Of course, the office cubicle has inspired an entire genre of humor, from Dilbert to Office Space.
But leave it to a Gen Xer to bring a contemporary design sensibility to the cubicle, as Fred Dust of IDEO did back in 2001. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, approached IDEO, a San Francisco-based design firm, to rethink the cubicle. The result sounds very Gen X and already a little dated! As the press release of the time states:
The result is a modular cubicle that allows each worker to select the components from a “kit of parts” and create a space based on his or her tastes and lifestyle. Practical considerations include modules for seats, computers, displays, and lights; more whimsical modules provide a hammock, an aquarium, and a hamster wheel.
Interestingly, Herman Miller just came out with a new line of “office” furniture that is designed for the home office — which is precisely where a lot of us are working these days, as I point out in my book Slackonomics.