Office Spaces—Then & Now

The office forms a large part of our lives. From Taylorism to Cube Farm the typical office layout seems to be always changing. This project looks at how offices have evolved over time by the creation of vector illustrations displaying these different time periods.

Taylorism 1900 

The American engineer Frederick Taylor is credited as being one of the first people to ever design an office space. Taylor was obsessed with efficiency and designed an office plan with striking similarities to a factory. Workers were crammed together in an open environment, whilst bosses observed them from private offices. This plan suited the production line nature of much American office work, with mail-order firms, government agencies and insurance companies following the Taylorist principles of splitting tasks into small repetitive acts.

Bürolandschaft 1960

In the 1960s in Germany, a radical new office layout known as Bürolandschaft or ‘office landscape’ was developed by Quickborner team of management consultants. The design consisted of furniture scattered in a large structurally undivided space. Although the office layout was open plan, office partitions and plants did create distinct areas and some level of privacy. Bürolandschaft translates literally to “office landscape,” and may be seen to be the first major mold-breaking office space reinvention since Taylorism nearly 50 years before. By pioneering a new form of open office, Eberhard and Wolfgang Schnelle, of the Quickborner Team in Hamburg, sought to “break the rigid and ineffective structures of large bureaucratic organizations open, and design the spatial organization of the office in line with the needs of workers.”

Cube Farm 1980

It’s the cubicle concept taken to the extreme. As the ranks of the middle managers swelled, a new class of employee was created: too important for a mere desk, but too junior for a window seat. Facilities managers accommodated them in the cheapest way possible, with modular walls and the sea of cubicles was born.

Virtual Office 1990

In 1991 the world wide web was released to the public, because of this staff became more mobile. it became evident that they could work anywhere and were no longer wed to their desk. It became normal to see people working in cafes, coffee shops and from home, as companies began to adopt these new ways of working. As mobility became the norm, office design began to embrace ‘hot desking’ where staff weren’t allocated space, but rather picked an available space to work from.

Networking 2015

During the past decade, furniture designers have tried to part the sea of cubicles and encourage sociability–without going nuts. Knoll, for example, created systems with movable, semi-enclosed pods and connected desks whose shape separates work areas in lieu of dividers. Most recently, Bitra unveiled furniture in which privacy is suggested if not realized. It’s large tables have low dividers that cordon off personal space but wont guard personal calls.

Modern Modular 2020

The Modern Modular trend is an extension of the Dynamic Spaces trend from years past and is focused on the amazing innovations that are emerging in offices, allowing businesses to work smarter, more effectively, and create an environmentally conscious workspace for their employees. Beyond modular offices, dynamic desks, and lounge areas, there’s also simplified office equipment such as computer stands, a multiplicity of ergonomic chairs, standing balance boards for desks, and lockers for a sense of place in such a flexible space.