The Action Office was a project undertaken by designers from the Herman Miller furniture company and the University of Michigan in 1968. Their aim was to design a system of office furniture that would flexibly accommodate various needs, rather than simply planting employees behind big desks. Their research included input from a variety of fields, including behavioral psychology, architecture, and anthropology, aiming to create a customizable system that would facilitate movement and collaboration in addition to providing privacy for individual work.
Team leader Robert Propst wrote in 1968, "The renewed rise of individuality as a value and the great diversity in what one may be required to do in an office does not allow a continuation of sterile uniformity," but the Action Office system ironically was most commonly installed as the grid of cubicles commonly derided today as sterile and dehumanizing.
The Action Office research was done at 2285 S State, more recently home to Pilar's Cafe and other restaurants; Grand Rapids-based Herman Miller is still selling the products to people who misuse them for bland cubicles, with an installed base of over $8 billion.
- Ann Arbor Business Review, 27 November 2008: The office cubicle turns 40: Much-maligned workspace was born in Ann Arbor
- Trapped in Cubicles, Fortune, March 2006.
- George Nelson: The Design of Modern Design, by Stanley Abercrombie, Published by MIT Press, 2000. ISBN 0262511169
- Wikipedia: Action Office