back to article Sofas with a roof and Star Trek seating: The future of office furniture?

I’ve been going to the 100% Design trade show for quite a few years now and there’s always some finely crafted cubicle contraption lurking in the Office section of the event. Unless I’ve developed some curious office consciousness since my last visit, I’d say there are more of these cubicle designs than ever this year. OK, so …


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  1. conan

    19 September 2013

    ... Isn't a Saturday

  2. Anonymous Custard


    Not sure what that Pod thing reminds me of more, an aquarium or an oversized shower. Certainly not somewhere I'd want to have a meeting in either way. We have "normal" meeting rooms with that kind of large glass area in some of our offices, and they're awful to use (a pain to temperature regulate and very high distraction level of people walking past).

    The Niche chairs however do look interesting in a more informal but private discussion style, albeit for smaller discussions rather than groups.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pod

      was it "Zone of SIlence" in Get Smart!

      personally I like the idea of two mangers having a stand-up argument in front of the whole office in complete silence - like a modern TV drama with the sound down. No idea what's happening but it looks good.

      1. Captain TickTock

        Re: Pod

        Cone of Silence. And it never worked. The occupants couldn't hear each other, but everyone else could hear the occupants

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pod

          That sounds like sailing acoustics.

          "Big Metal Thing just yards dead ahead! You're going to hit it!"

          People on shore, half a mile away, heard every word, but not the guy at the tiller.

          Bong! crunch.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Haku

    Change the colour to black or very dark grey and add lots of blue electroluminescent strips into them and et voila, Tron furniture!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use of the phrase

    "breakout area" should be punishable by a very slow and painful death.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Use of the phrase

      To quote one of John Finnemore's characters

      "If you want me, I will NOT be in the seminar room"

    2. Suburban Inmate

      Re: Use of the phrase

      I think an area for playing Breakout would be great!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the case of the Boss Design Group - compact office furniture

    Wondering how long it would be before 2 people crept up on either side pushing it shut on the occupant, have worked in some offices where this would be a definite possibility

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: In the case of the Boss Design Group - compact office furniture

      It looks suspiciously like something that would close up before being speedily ejected from a futuristic spacecraft's hull in the event of an important component going boom.

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Oof cubicle... and DSE regulations

    To comply, the relative positions of the keyboard, monitor, and chair all have to be adjustable - these have the suspicious look of something that fits the designer and no-one else, and only then if the exact position is maintained forever.

    They may be space efficient, but they do not look comfortable.

  7. Peter Storm

    cylindrical affair with clear glass panels

    "that lets everyone know you’re having a meeting, but not what you’re talking about – lip reading (and laser beams picking up vibrations from the windows) notwithstanding"

    Just make sure HAL isn't watching you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: cylindrical affair with clear glass panels

      I had a friend at college who, despite being able to hear perfectly, could lip read perfectly. We often used to sit in a room overlooking the principal's office. He would just watch what people said. Nobody ever worked out how we, just a couple of students, were higher up in the news chain that most of the staff.

      The same friend, as a bus passed us in the street, turned and asked me, "Did you see what that guy said?" He could never understand that others didn't have the same ability. Now, as my hearing gets worse, I wish I did.

    2. Kubla Cant


      not what you’re talking about – lip reading (and laser beams picking up vibrations from the windows) notwithstanding

      My understanding is that "X notwithstanding" means something like "despite X".

      So are the occupants of this thing protected against lip-readers and lasers, or aren't they? If they are, how does the anti-lip-reading device work?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Notwithstanding

        i've always understood it to mean something along the lines of 'except X', so...

        'not what your talking about - except if you can lip read or have access to laser beams which can pick up the vibrations from the glass'

  8. Don Jefe

    Dream Turned Nightmare

    Robert Propst was the author of The Office: A Facility Based on Change in the 1960's and his ideas were directly perverted to create the cube farm and the monstrosities in the article. He died being blamed for the modern office but denied it to his death, calling them "barren, rat hole places".

    His ideas are there in the cubes, sort of. Each was supposed to be customizable to suit the current desires of its occupant and make them feel like they 'owned' their own little bastion of productivity. Each cube worker was supposed to be able to select modular components from a central store and swap them out themselves. The modularity was quickly absconded with by office builders who saw a way to cut down on parts lists and charge outrageous sums for critical components of crappy quality.

    So, as with other good ideas, the 'Action Office' concept was twisted by greed into the sickly cube farms we all love. The book is very interesting and still 100% applicable even though the technology is entirely different. The guy really knew Humans and office work.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Dream Turned Nightmare

      There was lot of really, really good design being done in the 1950s and 60s in regards to public space planning.

      All perverted or abandoned by greed or fashion.

      My pet peeve these days: missing signs on glass doors with ambiguous handles. Do I push or pull and do I need to swipe my badge?

      My second pet peeve is cubicles with half walls. Yes, I can clearly hear your conversation with the doctor's office about your botched sex change operation.

      Furniture in this article? Fashion. Meh.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Dream Turned Nightmare

        There really was so much good work done and it is strange to me nobody ever seems to goes back and looks at what was already accomplished.

        Everybody is trying to reinvent the wheel and they're basing it on a flawed conception of the wheel. They're skipping design fundamentals that were developed when individual productivity and effeciency was orders of magnitude better studied and mission critical: It had to be, everything was manual.

        It's that way in industrial machinery too. Bad ideas that were tried two (Human) generations ago are dressed up in colored plastic and remarketed. They're still bad ideas, now they just clash with the factory floor.

    2. Hud Dunlap

      @Don Jefe

      The book is just like the furniture in the article.

      Pricey. $70 for a used book is high.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: @Don Jefe

        It is expensive. But most specialty books are; the authors have to eat too. For better or worse, it is highly unlikely that a book about modular workplace design principals will ever reach the volume levels of general interest books that allow for lower pricing :)

        There used to be a (poorly) scanned PDF version of it floating around sites which have such things; but I haven't looked in many years.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did they not have meeting places like that in early 60's scifi movies? It was a crap idea then, and its still a crap idea now.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silly Con

    Looks like Shoreditch stuff to me, got to be comfy whilst loosing all the VCs money.

    1. Kubla Cant


      I regret to report that this is the second posting on El Reg today that uses "loosing" to mean "losing".

      Shall we run a sweepstake on how long it will be before the verb "to lose" disappears entirely? When that happens it will, presumably, be impossible for archers to distinguish between firing an arrow and misplacing one.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Loosing

        Your right. It is utterly rediculous that people can no longer spell lose...

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Loosing

        They must have found it while googling.

      3. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Loosing

        One does not "fire" an arrow - unless you mean the action shortly before shooting a burning one.

        An arrow is shot, loosed or released.

        Although I suppose loosing an arrow tends to happen just before losing it!

        1. Gavin King

          Re: Loosing

          "Although I suppose loosing an arrow tends to happen just before losing it!"

          I must disagree --- unless you shoot like I play golf!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So was I the only one trying to work out which ones would be useful for that liaison with Jenny from the typing pool after the office Christmas party?

    Please tell me I'm not the only one....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      no, you're not. the rest of the office have their eye on Jenny too.

    2. hammarbtyp

      Blast from the past

      You still have a typing pool|||

      Where do you work? The 1950's re-enactment society?

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Blast from the past

        I'm not wholly convinced that the extinction of the typing pool was a good thing. Sure, individual productivity has gone up (in theory anyway) but so has the cost of the infrastructure and maintenance required to make it all work. Plus think of all the modesty screen designers who were displaced.

        Reply All with REMOVE in subject line to stop receiving these messages.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Blast from the past

          Reply All with REMOVE in subject line to stop receiving these messages.

          I see what you do did there.

          Well played.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Go for the glass one please. It gives everyone else in the office something nice to look at - without having to hear anything which might distress them.

      However, I should point out that although Jenny's pulchritude is not in doubt by anyone in the office, yours needs to match up as well. So if you're Adam from accounts, you can forget it. Jenny says you're repulsive. If you're Brad in marketing however, she's asked me to tell you to bring your hunky body and a canister of whipped cream anytime after lunch.

      1. Anonymous Custard


        Well that's my new word of the day sorted out - thanks :)

    4. Ian Michael Gumby

      Sadly you are...

      First, didn't anyone warn you about the problems when you dip your pen in the company ink?

      Second. If you have to wait until the X-mas party, you're too slow. You needed to make your move earlier, like during the Friday after work gathering down at the local pub.

      Third... are in a time warp? The 'typing pool' went out with the 60's and early 70's.

      Nowadays programmers routinely type faster than old school secretaries.

      Just keeping it real.

      Oh and just to keep it on topic, the trend is to create places where one could escape the pods. Sorry, but pods are not that efficient for those attempting to do serious work. Most who have to live in pods tend to drown out and zone out by putting on headphones and listening to music just so that they can think.

      Give me a sterile office w a single coworker any day.

    5. ecofeco Silver badge

      It's not rocket surgery.

      It should the one with the timer.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    space saving

    They should combine those cubicles with loo seats, to create ambient, relaxed atmosphere, while bullshitting carefully selected business partners. Trap doors optional.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bloody awefull!

    You see this type of rubbish in those companies which are closing 18 months later!

    1. Don Jefe

      Full of awe at the cost or the awful designs? :)

      But you're right. These things are custom made to bleed new money companies dry. It's sort of a good financial management test for VC's. If your projects start buying cutting edge decor don't give them any more money. That garbage doesn't impress anyone but the simpletons. It angers investors.

      On the other hand those same stupid companies provide a wonderful source of nice things when they liquidate their holdings. All of our Aeron and Leap chairs and Herman Miller drafting stools were bought at auctions for about $75 each, instead of $1100+ per. We spent the savings on the staff lounge and complimentary bar.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wheelchair freindly?

    Thought not!

    1. Don Jefe
      Thumb Up

      Re: Wheelchair freindly?

      There's your in for next years 100% Design show! You'd get scads of free press too! Special populations (I'm sorry, I don't know the current correct term for the disabled) press would jump on it and VC's would eat it up too. I was going to say they'd love it because of the captive market but then was worried about that being misconstrued as insulting. Damnit, I hate it that people are destroying the language.

      Anyway, you've got a good idea. OpenSpaces: The Leader in Wheelchair Accessible Productivity Environments; or whatever you want to call it. You should do it.

  15. hugo tyson
    Thumb Down

    My eyes!

    I just looked at the show's site. But at least it's windows 8 compatible :-)

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: My eyes!

      Well, if you're looking to completely derail both productivity and company financials you can combine any of these designs with Windows 8 throughout the workplace and you've accomplished your mission!

  16. Anonymous Coward


    Chairs have ears!

  17. hammarbtyp


    I would just be happy with a decent office chair

  18. Lloyd

    Yeah right

    Has anyone worked for a company where anyone outside of the boardroom has high concept furniture? Most of the places I've worked you're lucky if you can find a chair that's got the requisite number of legs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah right

      Yep, we have lots of kit like this put in when we moved to our new offices. We have mainly rows of desks, all with docking bays, phones, 2nd monitors and keyboard/mice for hotdesking. Our meeting rooms are frosted glass pods holding 4-7 people, and we've got masses of them, all of which have VC for talking to teams in China and US.

      Our "breakout area" (I agree, it is a horrible term) has several high tables with some phones scattered around and power points for laptops, and a bunch of patio style tables and chairs for brief meetings/lunch (and coffee/tea machines).

      We have "privacy couches" like the ones shown as well, for informal and semi private meetings. We even have a meeting room mocked out like the Tardis.

      Compared to our old offices, standard shitty London office, we had 3 meeting rooms, only one of which had VC, no hotdesking (meaning every time someone moved team, IT had to move their PC), you could never get a meeting room booking for VC, and if you did, the other side wouldn't have their only room with VC.

      I was sceptical too at first, but the extra facilities are genuinely useful, and the hotdesking facilities mean it is trivial to work from home with all the features of being in the office.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Hotdesking is just evil

        I hate hotdesking, it makes it impossible to personalise your space and worse, makes your notepads and printed copy a hindrance instead of the help it should be.

        And yes, printed copy is necessary if you have fewer than four monitors or if your monitors are only 1080p or smaller.

        Notepads are simply fundamental - you can sketch a thing faster on a bit of paper than it could ever be drawn on a computer, and it's compatible with all software and fully multi-tasked.

        1. Gavin King

          Re: Hotdesking is just evil

          Perhaps I'm Luddite of some description --- certainly I'll admit to in-experience --- but I've found printed copy to be a saving grace: everybody in charge assumes that nobody would use hardcopy materials for anything important, so it is a trivial matter to shift them from place to place, especially compared to computer machinery.

          Although I'd like to hear you discription of "notepad"; again my inexperience, in that I'm not sure of what you mean.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            @Gavin King Re: Hotdesking is just evil

            Hotdesking means having to carry all your paperwork around, it can't be left on the desk or locked in the desk drawer.

            When that paperwork is a set of annotated building drawings, that's easily more than a kg of paper for just one project.

            When you're working on multiple projects at the same time, it rapidly becomes impossible.

            A notepad is a like a book but without any words inside it. You use a pen or pencil to put your own words and diagrams inside. Thoroughly recommended, they work almost everywhere even without electrical power or batteries, and some models are even waterproof!

            1. Gavin King

              Re: @Gavin King Hotdesking is just evil

              A-ha. That makes sense. (Or rather it doesn't, but I you get what I mean.)

              And I'm intrigued about this "notepad". Doesn't require electricity? Is it solar powered?

              Thanks for soothing my curiosity.

  19. tony2heads

    The cocoon

    Looks like some sort of sci-fi monk's cell

  20. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Office shag

    Finally, someone provides a decent, discrete and comfy environment for that.

  21. Visual Echo

    LARGE please... not all of us are built like overweight circus midgets.

  22. Stevie


    Christ all f*cking mighty!

    I'd be less outraged if the search for efficient use of limited space didn't have so many sweeping curves or lack of any sort of clue about claustrophobia's impact on productivity.

    It isn't hard. If you can't fit a desk and swivel chair in your office for each worker *let them work from home*!

    If you can't trust them to work from home, rent cheaper office space!

  23. Erik4872

    Grr, more open plan office furniture

    I absolutely hate the trend of the open plan office. It makes it impossible to concentrate, you have to find a room to make a phone call or hold a meeting, etc. My company brought in the usual suspect management consultants a few years ago who convinced them that the open plan office was the way to go. Since then, they've been converting all their bigger offices to these Google-esque wonderlands. No assigned desks, glass-walled meeting rooms, the whole bit.

    I think it has something to do with the whole social aspect, but when I'm working on a problem, I want quiet. When I make a phone call, I don't want the entire office to hear it.

    Fortunately, for now, our smaller branch office hasn't been targeted for Googlefication yet. We'll see what happens though...

    1. Daniel B.

      It could be worse

      They could've brought in the craptastic 'standing desks'! It's already horrible to spend 30-60 minutes standing on the subway during my daily commute (that's 30-60 minutes each way, not combined) and I'd be miffed if I had to stand 8+ hours as well during work!

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Grr, more open plan office furniture

      All kinds of bullishit has been spewed as the justifications for Open Plan Offices but it's all just that, bullshit. All the efficiency studies and whatnot artfully and intentionally steer clear of improved/developed office space costs.

      A fairly decent price for Class B finished and base wired open office space in a decent size city in a decent location (in the US) is ~$40-$60 per square foot. If you're leasing a space where you want to build in 'real' offices and facility dictated contractors, engineers and architects are required, the price jumps up to about $300ft2+ (well over $1000 or more in Manhattan) plus the initial outlay for materials plus the anticipated costs of removal and restoration to as Leased condition. Most facilities won't consider those things 'lease hold improvements' so you can't deduct them from the lease payments (like you generally can with more restrooms or other required things) or, in many cases, taxes. It's a straight spend.

      If you're leasing say, 5,000ft2 the difference in putting staff in cubes vs 'real' offices is the difference between having a viable business or not. The cost of office space is one of those few things that business owners/managers don't have control over and can legitimately blame on someone else.

      People bitch about software shenanigans and lock-in but the software industry ain't got shit on the crooked bastards in commercial real-estate. You're trapped with no options and they know it.

  24. John Gamble

    Logo Problem Perhaps

    My apologies to the graphic designer who created it, but at my first glance at the Joint Design Direction logo on the wall, my brain said to me, "Why are they using a hangman's noose next to their name?"

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Logo Problem Perhaps

      The logo only appears like a noose if you are standing on the floor and looking slightly up at it.

  25. Arachnoid


    Hmm......I can see people having issues with those small spaces,either that or the background music floating round the office of someone snoring

  26. HippyFreetard

    "Yo dawg, heard you like offices..."

    Wow. Way to utilise space, "designers".

    How about, get this: use another room. A smaller one. Now no need to create the half-baked illusion of having a small office by dumping a small office in the middle of a large empty room. Go clean out a broom cupboard. Problem solved. Call it an Alpha-State Inducement Chamber and pipe some Enya in if it makes you feel any better.

  27. kain preacher

    Looks like the bastard love child of ikea and the 60's

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Star Trek furniture, it's not just for paedophiles anymore.

    Although, I'm not sure about that one guy.

  29. Richard 12 Silver badge

    That circular pod is just insane.

    Perfect for wasting tens of expensive square footage by making them utterly unusable.

    Circular is BAD. It does not nest, it doesn't fit in with anything else - and often makes a large space claustrophobic, because you're always close to a wall.

    What is it with these "design" people anyway? Most of those would be dangerous in a fire as hard to evacuate (and check), claustrophobic and unusable by anyone not the exact size and shape of the designer.

  30. Dick Emery

    Has anyone seen my stapler?

    I'll get my coat. No wait. Where is my coat?

  31. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Nap mode?

    Nap mode? No way they'd permit that kind of option here in the states.

  32. Arachnoid

    Star Trek furniture,

    I guess his future is certain to contain lots of futuristic locks and jewelery

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