Short history of office design

We spend and will still continue to spend a great amount of time in the office, no matter the latest trends that encourage remote work and flexibility. The average worker still goes to a designated workplace, wave the badge in front of a time marking machine and sits in front of a computer every day for at least 8 hours per day.  This means, that most of the work is done inside an office and needs an appropriate environment, that enables and makes easy to achieve focus, human flourishing and creativity.

The early beginning of office design

Frederick Taylor, an American mechanical engineer who aimed to improve industrial efficiency, is considered to be among the first ones to design an office space around 1904. He believed that by enforcing standardization methods, best implements of working conditions and cooperation, work would become faster. Taylor’s idea was to transfer control from workers to managers and divide the  labor into simple tasks, that would transform work into a repeatable, precise, but skill reducing activity. His ideas about office spaces, were sharing same structure as factories, with the only result being to maximize workplace productivity, by crowding as many workers as possible in a completely open space.


In the early 1950’s, a new movement called Bürolandschaft/Großraumbüro (office landscape) broke the long rows of desks with workers performing repetitive actions. Office Landscape encouraged all staff to share the space together within a non-hierarchical environment that would increase collaboration. The typical furniture available at the time, was used together with different screen heights to create irregular circulation patterns along the layout.

“Open Office Planning” – A handbook for Interior Designers and Architects, by John Pile


Seeing the need for screens and panels to provide some sort of privacy within the office space, furniture companies started to create modular business systems, the so called cubicles. Action office, was developed by Herman Miller in the ‘60s and around 1980 the concept of cubicle was taken to an extreme point; Sea of cubicles was born inside the office designs.




In 1994 Frank Gehry introduced the virtual office, in the L.A. headquarters of Advertising company TBWA\Chiat\Day’s. The principle consisted of non-existence of personal desks. As a result the noise increased and the productivity decreased.

Networking is the system used until the present, where designers combine all the spaces needed for a better functionality. Movable collaboration furniture, open desks, semi-enclosed pods, enclosed offices, open meeting booths, phone booths, all thought to offer the people using the space all options according to each type of work that needs to be done during or outside the working hours.

Combining different types of spaces, creates areas where work can be done in a more private way, or in a more creative, collaborative way.


Shortly after the first moments when the notion of office designs was introduced, designers and architects started to focus more on the way people work. Having tried different solutions and studying after the effects on employees well being and companies productivity, brought significant improvements of what it is happening in the present in the corporate interior design industry. We are facing today an entire culture where trends and innovation work together to bring companies better profits by giving their employees a better workplace. Office design became a statement about each company culture and brand and together with different activities that take place in the workspace, employees develop better communication and team skills, that improve the work quality.




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