Herman Miller has redefined the workspace, again

“Office Space” now has material for a sequel.

Nearly 40 years after unveiling the original cubicle — a Robert Propst design called “Action Office” — $1.5 billion design giant Herman Miller has redefined the workspace, again.

Technically, My Studio is still a cluster of desks surrounded by walls. However, the walls are tempered glass and the corners are slightly rounded. Windows between workspaces slide open like the back of a pickup truck. It has a closet.

“One thing is certain, workspaces aren’t going to get bigger,” says My Studio designer Douglas Ball, who credits road trips in his VW Westfalia and a restored 1965 Porsche among his inspirations. “Accept that as reality and design the perfect small space. I wanted to return a sense of territory and a sense of space to the worker.”

Which begs the question: Can a six-by-eight-foot cubicle really amount to improved personal space?

You bet, says Herman Miller communications rep Bruce Buursma. “You can choose to make yourself open to others or get the privacy you might never get with typical paneled cubicles,” he says. “Plus, it’s just beautiful.”

Since its debut at Neocon in June, 31 clients have signed on for the new system, including a major studio. Each My Studio costs $4,000-$6,000 — roughly double the price of traditional cubes, so cost cutting is hardly the objective.

“Companies are looking at it as a way to transition private offices to open plan with the least possible resistance,” says Buursma. “And they see it as a way to attract and hold on to employees.”

Still, what will happen when the inevitable copycats step in? Propst lamented that the current cubicle was the very worst interpretation of his initial design. It won’t happen on Herman Miller’s watch; solid paneled walls aren’t even an option.

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