When Herman Miller asked him to design My Studio Environments, a new system of modular offices smaller than the average cubicle, designer Douglas Ball decided to aim high: for the feeling he got when he drove across the American Southwest in a Porsche 356.

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Why the interior of a Porsche?
That space was an ideal space. It didn’t have to be any larger. You felt spacious in it — you felt good. My interest was to make a small space an enjoyable space, a comfortable space. It seems to have worked. In this 6-by-8-foot space, you’re in the middle of everything. You don’t have to scoot your chair around. You just reach out and everything you need is right there, just like in the interior of a well-built small car.

Money magazine said you designed My Studio hoping to undo your mistakes when you designed one of the first big cubicle offices.
Back in 1972, I created a design for a panel system. I remember spending countless hours on how many ways we could use this design, always looking at it in plain view, down from above. And it was versatile. When I went into the first installation, I expected to feel really good — but I was discouraged. I hadn’t thought about the interior elevation, the way it would look from inside. When you see Dilbert now, that’s what you see, that installation. It’s still one of the worst I’ve seen.

One of the things I liked on your new design was the door.
When I presented my ideas to Herman Miller, I said, “We’ve seen how systems have taken away from the worker: the door, the private office, the closet. It’s time to give back what the worker has lost.” What My Studio attempts to do is give people a sense of territory and privacy but, at the same time, an awareness of what’s going on around them, because that gives people a sense of control — like the old gunfighter in a saloon who sits with his back to the wall so no one can sneak up on him from behind.

For more information on Douglas Ball’s new My Studio Environments design, see www.hermanmiller.com.