Who Inspired The Office Spaces we Work in Today?

There is no certainly no shortage of innovative and functional office furniture in today’s marketplace, but have you ever wondered who and what shaped modern office furniture and design? Discover our five most influential people in office furniture and design.

#5 Jerry Woolf

Whiteboard Marker and Holder

Jerry Woolf was the inventor of the whiteboard marker, and while others can claim credit for the invention of the actual whiteboard surface some decades before, it wasn’t until Jerry Woolf’s invention in 1975 that whiteboards began to overtake traditional chalkboards in schools, boardrooms and offices across the globe. Nowadays, many of us have smaller whiteboards in our offices and cubicles, so we can all thank Jerry for keeping our modern offices clean and chalk-free!

#4 Otto von Bismarck

Portrait of Otto Van Bismarck
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Born a Prussian noble, Otto von Bismarck did a great many things in his life including unifying Prussia and all of Germany, but his most notable contribution to office furniture and design was his popularizing the office chair as we know it today. Noticing that the addition of wheels and a swivel function aided in productivity of clerks, Otto regularly handed out office chairs during his time in parliament. This, of course, garnered the attention of others who quickly followed suit.

#3 Robert Propst

Robert Propst of Herman Miller
Source: Herman Miller

Not only was Robert Propst renowned for his work as an architect with Herman Miller Furniture, but he is also credited with the invention of the office cubicle. In 1964, Propst designed what he then termed the “Action Office”, which consisted of a desk, a phone, a vertical filing system and partitions for added privacy. Originally designed to improve upon the more open, bullpen design that was the current rage, Propst’s “Action Office” was essentially an early version of the modern office cubicles you see in many businesses today.

#2 Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Painting
Source: Wikimedia Commons

What does one of our founding fathers have to do with office furniture? Truth be told, Thomas Jefferson was one of the first historical figures to truly popularize the standing desk. While both Leonardo Da Vinci and Napoleon Bonaparte were also rumored to have enjoyed standing desks, it wasn’t until Thomas Jefferson rose to fame and became the third President of the United States that the standing desk gained popularity among the masses. In fact, he was the first person to commission a desk that could adjust from sitting to standing based on his current needs. His desk had six legs, was truly one-of-a-kind and gave inspiration to the standing and adjustable desks that we see on the market today.

#1 Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Long considered the first modern office, the Larkin Administration Building was designed by none other than renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Featuring built-in desks and many modern innovations such as air conditioning and toilet bowls, the Larkin Building is still long remembered as being one of the finest displays in American office architecture. Later in his career, Frank Lloyd Wright continued to lend his influence to the office scene by designing the SC Johnson and Son Administration Building. Opening in 1939 and often referred to as the Johnson Wax Building, this architectural wonder was built with Pyrex glass tubing that allowed for an open office layout and received plenty of indirect light. It is this same modern and streamlined workspace that you see in many large corporations and organizations today.

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Topics: Office Space