Robert Propst (inventor)

Robert (Bob) Propst (1921 - 2000) was the inventor of the Action Office that evolved into the cubicle office furniture system.

Born in Colorado, Propst worked for Herman Miller (Research) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was hired in 1958 by Herman Miller Inc. president Hugh DePree to "find problems outside of the furniture industry and to conceive solutions for them."[1]

Propst's work has been exhibited at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Henry Ford Museum.

"Father of the Cubicle" is a misnomer. When Propst designed the Action Office system, so-called "cubicle farms" were not his intent. Propst's own research into developing the action office philosophically was against the cubicle in many ways. The Action Office system was designed to promote productivity, privacy, and health (they attempted to increase blood flow) at the expense of some inefficient use of space. Cubicles are now typically designed to maximize efficient use of space.

The efficient "cubicle" became popular in office design because of the movable wall seen in the Action Office II (AO2) system, which initially saved money in construction and development costs. After their introduction into the marketplace, the Action Office II and other office systems were modified to pack in as many employees as possible into an office space . This vision was contrary to Propst's intentions, and he stated that "The cubiclizing of people in modern corporations is monolithic insanity."[2]

Propst's 120 inventions include:

In 1953, he formed Propst Co. in Denver, Colorado to commercialize his inventions.



  1. "The Office: A Facility Based on Change." Propst, Robert. Published by Herman Miller, Inc. 1968
  2. Lohr, Steve (11 August 1997), "Rethinking Privacy vs. Teamwork in Today's Workplace", The New York Times, retrieved 8 December 2012


Mr. Propst has a burial marker at the Propst family plot in Riverside Cemetery, Sterling, CO.


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