The latest from Yves Béhar’s fuseproject? A new office furniture system for Herman Miller, designed specifically to let employees collaborate throughout the day.

Public Office Landscape uses social desk spaces and modular pieces, and nixes conventional conference rooms that take you away from you workstation.

Herman Miller asked Béhar to design social work furniture two years ago. But fuseproject has been experimenting with the idea in-house for 11 years now.

“We were both a guinea pig and the lab coat at the same time, on solving a problem that we were within and looking at from outside,” Béhar says.

In addition to becoming their own living lab, fuseproject studied office behavior at over 20 companies on the West Coast, including the likes of Google and Facebook, smaller startups, and some more conservative offices.

In recent years, offices have been reconfiguring spaces to allow for an uptick in spontaneous conversations, which in theory lead to new ideas.

But fuseproject found that 70% of collaboration happens at an actual workstation, instead of a preordained meeting or in watercooler scenarios.

The Public Office Landscape line includes over 45 pieces to mix and match. Read more about the design process over at fuseproject.


An Office System That Turns Every Desk Into A Conference Room

Yves Béhar’s Public Office Landscape for Herman Miller provides every opportunity for impromptu collaboration.

"The way people are working has changed, but the furniture has not evolved," says Yves Béhar, founder of fuseproject. Which is not to say that in recent years offices haven’t modernized or, rather, adjusted to include more communal spaces that accommodate spontaneous bursts of brainstorming.

Béhar is referring to the conference room, not the desk template. And the conference room is outdated. "What has been happening in the industry, for years, is an attempt to have a few prescriptive areas: This a great place for collaboration or brainstorming. It’s a destination. You have to go there," Béhar tells Co.Design.

Public Office Landscape is fuseproject’s antidote. The modular furniture system—which debuted this week at the Neocon trade show in Chicago—was created to embed collaboration into every minute of the workday. Béhar developed the structures for Herman Miller, but Public is actually the result of 11 years of organic in-house experimentation at fuseproject. The design company has, from the beginning, brought multidisciplinary teams together to collaborate on projects.

Two years ago, when Herman Miller gave Béhar an open-ended brief for a new office furniture system, fuseproject started playing with new configurations of prototypes in their office. "We acted as both guinea pig and lab coat, trying to solve a problem from within but also looking at it from the outside," Béhar says.

The Public concept allows for a comfortable amount of individual space while still adhering to the concept of an open, social environment. Modular pieces mean that group numbers can change, and the furniture can adapt. But the larger goal is to make every desk space as functional as a conference room, so you don’t have to wait to book a room the next day if a spark of inspiration is happening right now.

Besides turning the fuseproject office into a living laboratory for the system, the studio studied office behavior at more than 20 companies on the West Coast, ranging from big Silicon Valley companies, such as Google and Facebook, to smaller startups and more traditional offices. Between observation and interviews, the designers found an across-the-board hunger for better ways to collaborate in-office.

"We have a ton of photos of the idiosyncrasies of the way people pull funky chairs by their desks to encourage people to sit there," Béhar says. It’s also a common practice at forward-thinking offices, like at Square or Evernote, to have an office floor plan with those kinds of quirky meeting spots already built in. At the American Express offices, the BlueWork program makes office supplies and trashcans more communal, to gently coerce employees into more watercooler situations. But fuseproject’s design is based off the assertion that 70% of collaboration happens at an actual workstation, and not necessarily during ad-hoc meetings in the hallway.

As Béhar also points out, there is no longer a technical need to be in the office. We have state-of-the-art computers and communication systems at home and in our pockets. But we miss out on the most crucial element of working with a team: other people. "The more people interact—the more they have quick chats in an improvised way—the more efficient and happy they are."

Read more about the design process over at fuseproject.

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    I think light colors work well in offices and make the workers more productive. 

  • || Jus Kulit Manggis

    Office with a simple concept but it is very easily applied using appropriate property. This concept is more precise with the network device that is not complicated

  • Chris Raymond

    It sure looks to me that the height of the surface of the desks is still too high, not what it should be now that most people type on computers and laptops. Even in the renderings, people are having their forearms not parallel but tilted up to reach the desktop. So, concept A+. Execution: to me, fail. Ergonomic standards call for desktops to be 28" from the floor, not the all-too-standard 33" or 34". If you are going to all this trouble to design for collaboration, how about designing desks with adjustable height tops?

  • Fatemeh Fakhraie

    It's really important to gauge the office this is for correctly. I've worked in an open-plan office which worked out incredibly poorly because the work we did didn't require collaboration. In offices that require concentration and quiet work on one's own, these office plans are usually a terrible choice because employees can overhear everything everyone else is saying or doing and they feel frustrated with the lack of privacy.