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Worldesign Congress 1985 to the Action Office system as the world's most significant industrial design for the years






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What's In It For You

Product Story

Over the past half-century, two things have remained constant: Work continues to change and Action Office makes it simple for organizations to manage that change. From the introduction of computers to new understandings of the importance of choice and variety in the workplace, Action Office has helped individuals and organizations adapt.

Product Story

For the individual, the Action Office system of interchangeable components can be configured to support two fundamental needs—privacy and what designer Robert Propst called involvement: “to be... part of the family of activity.” For the organization, Action Office provides return on investment through simple specification, installation, configuration, management, and updating.



Propst’s design for Action Office provided easy and ongoing revision—one that would keep pace with work as it evolved. Decades later, the world’s first open-plan office solution continues to be relevant and responsive, a proven performer that can support individual and collaborative work.

Action Office System


Action Office provides you with a return on investment through its long-term use, durability, low cost, and ability to reconfigure and update easily. The interchangeable panels and components fit together perfectly, and reusability of components has always been a criterion for enhancements.

Action Office System


Versatile and hardworking, Action Office provides exceptional value and return on investment. It’s a straightforward, hassle-free solution—easy to understand and order, and quick to install and reconfigure.

Design Story

Once a graphic artist and sculptor, Robert Propst became president of Herman Miller Research Corporation in 1960. His goal was to investigate how the world of work operated, and he concluded, sadly, that “today’s office is a wasteland. It saps vitality, blocks talent, frustrates accomplishment. It is the daily scene of unfulfilled intentions and failed effort.” In his landmark book The Office: A Facility Based on Change, he wrote, “We find ourselves now with office forms created for a way of life substantially dead and gone.”

Propst’s answer to this unhappy situation was the Action Office system, introduced by Herman Miller in 1968. It was the world’s first open-plan office system—a bold departure from the fixed assumptions of what office furniture should be. With Action Office, Propst created a workspace solution that fit the way people really worked. Action Office was designed as a set of components that could be combined and recombined to become whatever an office needed to be over time. Designer Jack Kelley, designer of the mouse pad, worked side by side with Propst throughout the 1960s and early 1970s and played a pivotal role in the design of many Action Office components.

Action Office transformed workplaces around the world, as well as Herman Miller and the entire office furniture industry, which scrambled to copy it. It stands the test of time because, as the nature of work changes, it evolves to meet the changing needs of workers and their new work processes.