The Jake Files

March 11, 2006

Cubicle Inventor Decries Own Invention; Dilberts Everywhere Agree

Filed under: Economy & Business,General,Work — Amazing Jake @ 1:32 pm

 From Fortune:

Propst is the father of the cubicle. More than 30 years after he unleashed it on the world, we are still trying to get out of the box. The cubicle has been called many things in its long and terrible reign. But what it has lacked in beauty and amenity, it has made up for in crabgrass-like persistence. (snip)

But inventions seldom obey the creator’s intent. “The Action Office wasn’t conceived to cram a lot of people into little space,” says Joe Schwartz, Herman Miller’s former marketing chief, who helped launch the system in 1968. “It was driven that way by economics.”

Economics was the one thing Propst had failed to take into account. But it was also what triggered the cubicle’s runaway success. Around the time the Action Office was born, a growing breed of white-collar workers, whose job titles fell between secretary and boss, was swelling the workforce. Also, real estate prices were rising, as was the cost of reconfiguring office buildings, making the physical office a drag on the corporate budget. Cubicles, or “systems furniture,” as they are euphemistically called, offered a cheaper alternative for redoing the floorplan.

As a cubicle dweller, and manager of cubicle dwellers, I’ve seen bad ones and “less bad” ones.  I’ve never seen one that was particularly inviting.




  1. The thing about cubicles is it is the worst of both worlds. You aren’t able to see your companions, but you are always wondering who is watching you. Its like its designed to make you feel alone and watched at the same time. I think George Orwell would have put them in 1984 if they had been around at that time.


    Comment by Anonymous Cog — March 11, 2006 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

  2. […] The Amazing Jake previously wrote about the perils of cubicle farms here.  Now, Fast Company has an article about a new book that tells you how to spruce up your cubicle.  Alas, there are no pictures.  Amazon awaits your order. […]

    Pingback by The Jake Files » Interior Decorating for Cubicle Dwellers — April 9, 2006 @ 9:22 am | Reply

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