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How Artisanal Is Your Cubicle?

Did you see the article in Business Week last month about “The Artisinal Cubicle”? We thought there might actually be such a thing. A hand crafted, distinctive cubicle made from all natural materials and built to some exacting standard that no other cube on the market could match. We imagined that these workstations were only produced in small batches in some quaint little town in Western Europe.

The cubicle panels would be built up from the ground, layer upon layer like a hand-laid stone retaining wall, and covered with hand woven wool fabric. The worksurface would be planed from the wood of a 200 year old oak that died of natural causes. The overhead bin would be woven of dried honeysuckle vine…you get the picture.

When Artisanal Just Means “Artsy”

It turns out that the author of the article is abusing the term “artisanal”. Like the word “organic”, this label has become applied so loosely that it has lost all meaning. The article is actually about decorating your cubicle with pricey, trendy and attractive office supplies and other knick knacks. Of course, most of these are actually mass produced and feature a lot of steel, plastic, and powder coat paint. Eventually, consumers are going to figure out that it’s not really that quirky and adorable to have a purple stapler when everyone has one. Until then, the “boutique” office supply companies are likely to really clean up.

There is, however, some truth in the Business Week piece. For example, it does make a difference when employees are given a more active role in determining how their cubicle looks. When they can select tools, customize the space to suit their work style, and add personal effects, they are more productive and satisfied. We just don’t think they would want to build their own cubicle from scratch. The good news on that front is that many of the major cubicle manufacturers are releasing more creative workstation designs all the time. So, while all the cubicles in your office may look basically the same, they can all be stylish!


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