Think Inside The Cube

Who doesn’t get a shiver down their spine when hearing the word "cubicle"? It evokes images of depressing, windowless, colorless office spaces. (And, of course, the classic, spot-on movie Office Space.)  The non-descript beige-gray shade of the tackboard fabric, the sad filing cabinets and overhead storage cabinets, the dated computers and fax machines.

As dreadful as this aesthetic crime scene may be, cubicles were designed for a very specific purpose.  Cubicles take up much less space than private offices, and yet provide a modicum of visual privacy and a well-defined private space for their occupants.  The tackboards do more than provide wall space for attaching schedules, memos, and other important information; they serve an acoustical purpose, eliminating the echo effect by absorbing sound.  I liken old-school cubicles to communism: good idea, terrible execution.  Both lack beauty, personalization, and imagination.

The open desk set-up, with no dividers, makes the office look cleaner, happier, and airier. However, this set-up does not work for every type of business.  Semi-private workspaces that are modern, inviting, and inspiring are possible.  Below are a few examples of how exciting a cubicle can be, which might just raise an eyebrow or two.

Modular  "Hive" workstation made of salvaged wood. © Abeo Design

Modular  "Hive" workstation made of salvaged wood. © Abeo Design

A pretty simple set-up designed by Jones Haydu for Buck O’Neill Builders in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood.

A pretty simple set-up designed by Jones Haydu for Buck O’Neill Builders in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood.

The cubicles at the Vitra headquarters in Weil am Rhein, Germany, do not take up any more space than an open desk set-up. Additionally, the different colors of the interior lining allow for personalization.

The cubicles at the Vitra headquarters in Weil am Rhein, Germany, do not take up any more space than an open desk set-up. Additionally, the different colors of the interior lining allow for personalization.

This privacy screen set-up at the desks in the Hybrid Office in Los Angeles, designed by Edward Ogosta Architecture, looks like a little village. You should not have any trouble directing a visitor to your workstation.

This privacy screen set-up at the desks in the Hybrid Office in Los Angeles, designed by Edward Ogosta Architecture, looks like a little village. You should not have any trouble directing a visitor to your workstation.

How about your own workstation hut? Modelina office in Poznań Poland, via Archetizer.

How about your own workstation hut? Modelina office in Poznań Poland, via Archetizer.

Speaking of personalization: consider the Typographic group of desks by Benoit Challand.  Imagine all the different set-ups you could create.  Each employee gets the desk representing the letter of his or her first name.  Or the cubicles spell the company name and logo. Or assemble clusters of the same letters: D for design, E for engineering, S for support. 

Speaking of personalization: consider the Typographic group of desks by Benoit Challand.  Imagine all the different set-ups you could create.  Each employee gets the desk representing the letter of his or her first name.  Or the cubicles spell the company name and logo. Or assemble clusters of the same letters: D for design, E for engineering, S for support. 

There is no doubt that each employee requires proper tools to perform his work.  However, creating a personalized, fun work environment is also high on the list of the virtues of an optimal office set-up. It’s doable, easy, and the possibilities are endless.

Ula Bochinska