Artists sing about office furniture. Part 2 – My Chemical Romance

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Roger Carr writes: I always like “Furniture music” by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise – but upon listening to it again it could be domestic furniture too. But “Cubicles” by “My Chemical Romance” is surely about the lonely disassociated world of the (unrequited) love sick office cubicle dweller.It’s a tough listen after Harry Nilsson’s desk related joy and his close personal relationship with either a lump of wood or God depending on your point of view, but the MCR track might possibly help to explain the rush to escape the cubicle.

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Artists sing about office furniture. Part 1 – Harry Nilsson

Artists sing about office furniture. Part 1 – Harry Nilsson

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Given the complete and utter failure of the world’s artists to draw inspiration from office furniture, this is likely to be the shortest series we’ve ever run. It will start and end here. I’d love to be proved wrong but there cannot be many artists prepared to use something as mundane as a desk to express their feelings about the lack of solidity in their lives. In this case the desk can be interpreted as God or – well – a desk. Nilsson was no sap of course. He was one of the most commercially successful artists of his era without extensive touring and counted amongst his drinking buddies both John Lennon and Keith Moon.

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JSA launches latest league table of European office furniture companies

EU FlagAs the world gets smaller and the communications revolution continues apace, one relatively unnoticed casualty is the design individuality of offices. Time was when you could walk into an office and the furniture would tell you whether you were in Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Milan, Moscow or London. The colours, shapes, materials, construction and image of the furniture were all very local, almost parochial. Who could fail to be struck by the muddy oranges and greens of a French office? Or the inevitable mahogany or teak real wood veneers used in the UK? The panels, worksurfaces and storage units which made up US cubicles were rarely seen outside North America and the massive, dark wood desks and cabinets in Central European deliberately overawed visitors and staff alike.

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Office design goes to the movies. Part 8 – Brazil

Office design goes to the movies. Part 8 – Brazil

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A prescient film when it comes to modern office life, the workplace depicted in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is that particularly 1980s modish mish-mash of futuristic technology and grubby antique with more than a nod to the offices of the past, present and future. Nevertheless he was able to anticipate both the current obsession with shared desks, the battle for resources and space (above) and the fact that people will sometimes use technology to do anything  other than work so long as the boss doesn’t notice (below). Even the exposed pipes that were once so daring can now seem a routine or even hackneyed element in an office design.

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Office furniture ergonomics standard for increasing size of U.S. workers

Larger U.S. workers

The U.S. furniture manufacturer’s association the BIFMA (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association) has revised its ergonomics guidance to “reflect changes in the size and shape of the North American working population,” This includes increased seat width, distance between armrests, support surface height for sitting and standing, and height clearance for legs and knees. It’s also developing a new “Heavy Occupant Chair Standard”.  Although the BIFMA cannot be faulted for responding to consumer demand, the renewed guidance doesn’t address the core of the problem – the fact that over a quarter of U.S. workers (approximately 66 million people) are obese.

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What the CIFF 2013 show taught us about workplaces in China

CIFF 2013You can tell a lot about how we work by the things with which we choose to surround ourselves. That is why it always pays to keep an eye on the world’s major office products shows. So, while eyes are trained on Milan this week for the international furniture fair, John Sacks offers us a view from the world’s largest exhibition CIFF which took place late last month in Guangzhou. Ignore the show’s dreadful website, this was a vast and important exhibition which tells us much about in the world’s second largest economy. Over 900 companies exhibited at CIFF in a venue with over 210,000 sq. m. of floor space and more than 60,000 people were expected to visit. The report can be seen here.

Five things the Wall Street Journal inadvertently told us yesterday about office design

Some inadvertent truths

Some inadvertent truths

If I were to show you a headline from the Wall Street Journal announcing ‘Say Goodbye to the Office Cubicle’, you might date it at any time between the mid 1980s and 1990s. Maybe earlier. But it was actually in yesterday’s issue, dated 2 April 2013. Now, we could be amused by this or act all aghast at the sight of those dinosaurs yet to adopt a norm of open, collaborative and shared spaces never mind the ‘digital workplace’; or we could conclude that this tells us several important things about how those people and organisations who don’t keep a daily eye on workplace trends view the buildings they inhabit.

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Office design goes to the movies. Part 5 – Minority Report

Minority ReportWe obviously like films like this. High concept noir sci-fi, based on a book by Philip K Dick of course; dystopian, chock full of ideas and technology that seemed cool and subversive in 2002 and is mundane in 2013. I mean, the screens are still cool but who wouldn’t rather have a file stored in the Cloud or on a USB stick than inside a perspex panel the size of a brick? Deskheads may recognise the furniture as the totally of-a-piece Resolve from Herman Miller designed by Ayse Birsel. They can use this fact to bore whoever they are watching with who would presumably rather be watching Tom Cruise doing his Blue Steel face in the foreground. Or is it Magnum?

Office furniture leases are actually readily available

leaseThe article from John Sacks from 25th March bemoaned the fact that leasing is essentially useless for furniture projects on the basis that no banks are interested in funding such assets. I am delighted to inform John, and more importantly, the broader readership of Office Insight that this assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that finance for both pure furniture, and indeed broader fit out projects, is readily available. For some, the significant tax benefits (leasing is 100% tax deductible) are critical, whilst others recognise the importance of retaining capital and making sure cash is deployed effectively, not locked away in furniture, is key.

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Why office furniture leasing is not necessarily a great option

leaseIt seems like a perfect idea. The business needs new desks, chairs and cupboards and that refurbishment is long overdue. Or perhaps it’s time to move and the old furniture won’t make it in one piece. The furniture supplier wants to make the sale. Business has been slow and it’s the end of the month and sales targets need to be met. The company is making profits and the order book is pretty full, but cash is tight and the Finance Director begrudges every penny spent. So why not arrange for the furniture to be leased? It’s a question people in the office furniture supply business have now been asking for a number of years.

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Office design goes to the movies. Part 2 – 24 Hour Party People

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Warning: contains strong language.  Factory Records’ Rob Gretton disagrees somewhat with Tony Wilson’s purchase of an expensive table for the firm’s new offices in Michael Winterbottom’s wonderful take on the Madchester scene of the 1980s. But what really sets him off is the word ‘London’. Particular disdain is reserved for the fact the table is made of MDF. Deskheads will recognise the unmistakable application of a CNC machine in its manufacture and the inevitable iconic seating. And the morals are these – involve everybody in purchasing decisions and don’t fall into the trap of believing what they do in London is cool.

Office design goes to the movies. Part 1 – Zoolander

MugatuZoolander may not be a great film but it has its moments and does come alive every time the Mugatu character arrives to eat up the scenery. Of course, as an unreconstructed deskhead, I am always tempted to  look over the shoulders of the characters in a film to see what they are sitting on. Mugatu sits on an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair. It’s over 50 years old but screams DESIGNER, hence its place under his backside. It provides an easy shorthand and so is widely recognised, but its ubiquity including as a way for places like McDonald’s to flag up a new approach to their interiors with a mixture of fakes and originals means it can feel overused.