Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who Invented the Cubicle?

January 25, 2016

Personality Desk Signs | UncommonGoodsThe short answer is Robert Probst (1921 – 2000). But Bob was quick to point out that the cubicle and cubicle “farm” as we know them are a far cry from his original intent. Probst, a designer, inventor, and former college art professor, developed the Action Office system in 1960 as head of R&D for Herman Miller. The system was influenced by the German concept of Bürolandschaft or “office landscape,” a way of making open office plans more organic and hospitable through various desk configurations, partitions, and potted plants. Probst’s Action Office was a modular system that could be configured in various ways to suit different corporate environments, but its open angles (not 90 degrees) didn’t box workers in, and its mix of private and common spaces encouraged employees to move around throughout the day. And lest you think that the “standing desk” craze is a recent development, Probst incorporated the concept into his system as a way to improve blood flow. It was only decades later when office floor space costs soared that Probst’s office system was corrupted into the dreaded cubicle farm by large corporations looking to squeeze in as many people per square foot as possible. But however boxy and generic your workspace might be, remember: things could be worse…

Personality Desk Signs | $28

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