Cartoon critics Phil Witte and Rex Hesner look behind gags to debate what makes a cartoon tick. This week our intrepid critics take a look at cubicle life.
The prized corner office is going the way of the dinosaur in today’s modular floor plan. Acres of contiguous cubicles create an anonymous labyrinth. To many, the atmosphere inside one of these soft-walled warrens is stifling and soulless. Christopher Weyant captures the essence of this angst on a galley from a bygone era.
The mind-numbing sameness of each workstation is gently mocked in Tim Hamilton’s cartoon. Note that he takes pains to portray each dweller as unique, though all are confronted with an unblinking computer screen.
Even the lighting is singled out as a depressing element. The heavy washes of Michael Craw-ford’s brush convey the bland uniformity of the office interior.
As a sense of desperation grows, Matt Diffee depicts the inmates growing restless.
The feeling of claustrophobia often strikes first-time visitors to a “cube farm”. When the rat and prospective employee lock eyes, Peter Steiner asks: Which one of us is really in the maze?
Of course, space is at a premium in high-occupancy business centers. Corridors take up so much room, right? Mike Twohy’s got a solution for that problem with his innovative “employee crane” gag.
John O’Brien takes the space issue to the next level with his warehouse-style stacking of cubicles and their inhabitants. His classical sense of line gives his drawings the look of a centuries-old etching.
In taking the stacking concept to its logical extreme, it’s John O’Brien again for his “Rubik’s Cubicle” gag. His use of white space behind the cubicle stack draws the eye to both the cartoon title and incongruously spacious reception area.
One wonders: How have we knowingly conformed to these sterile productivity boxes? Jason Patterson gives us a hint in Business 101, a place where the uninitiated are inculcated in the ways of the worker bee world.
The above cohort of neophytes is being groomed into the office pods of the future. Who knows what shape that will take? One clue comes from Joe Dator’s cartoon introducing a new configuration altogether.
Pondering the future of office layouts, we again turn to John O’Brien for insight. His “hive” of worker drones radiates out from the executive-like queen at the center, a chilling nod to the corporate culture of fawning over CEOs.
The news isn’t all bad, however; progressive employers are becoming more creative in developing a supportive physical environment. We close with P.C. Vey’s hopeful silver lining for office cubicle dwellers.