Office Cubicle Turns 40

2:29 PM, Jul 25, 2008   |    comments
Photo courtesy Herman Miller
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GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (WZZM-TV)--The oft-derided "cubicle" is turning the BIG 40 this month. 

The open-office style was originally known as the "Action Office," and was introduced by West Michigan's Herman Miller Company in 1968. 

Bill Crooks was one of the first people in America to work in a cubicle. He started in Herman Miller's customer service department in 1967, shortly before the Action Office concept was introduced. 

Crooks says he was one of the guinea pigs to test the Action Office "and that was the great part because we helped install it, helped the installers install it, and when it was changed, we would work with it. So we really understood the furniture." 

Crooks says Action Office was a tough sell at first. He recalls one of the first meetings when the design was introduced to Herman Miller executives. Crooks says, "After the presentation, they showed us this set up of really ugly stuff and I, with all my wisdom thought, that is never going to sell." 

But, the concept caught on quickly. Crooks helped many major companies adjust their entire business style using Action Office, including Texas Instruments, Citibank and, "There was another small company out in White Plains, New York I went to. It was called MasterCard." 

Robert Propst designed the Action Office to change with the evolving work space. Crooks says, "You also could have a stand up work surface and the sit down work surface." 

When Propst explained the need for the Action Office, Crooks says, "They were describing the office changes that were in the future and they were really talking about stuff way out there, like the paperless office." 

From reams and reams of paper files, to a computer on every desktop, Action Office has changed with the way we work. And has changed the way we work.
 
Herman Miller grew exponentially after Action Office was introduced 40 years ago. It's a design many other companies have adapted as well.

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