The Best Eye-Popping Office Designs of the 1970s


The 1970s are often remembered for a garish palette, but it was a decade of great change — especially in terms of design. With the last season of Mad Men premiering tomorrow, set during the start of the 1970s, we have office design on the brain. “Office design in the 1960s and 1970s actually became more humanistic, with greater concern for the ability of the individual worker to have some freedom in the design and specification of his or her work area,” state the authors of Designing Commercial Interiors. Ergonomic designs were an essential part of the ’70s office environment. Many companies started recycling efforts and championed sustainable building design as a response to the ongoing energy crises. Experimental furniture, high-tech materials, and eye-popping colors were all the rage. We’ve highlighted some of the finest office designs from the ‘70s, which tease a look at Mad Men’s updated digs, below.

Italian office equipment manufacturer Olivetti was founded in the late 1950s, but one of its most popular pieces hails from the ‘70s. Created to appeal to young office workers, the pop-inspired Valentine typewriter had a modern flair.

Olivetti’s Synthesis 45 office chair was also intended for the youthful desk worker. Designed by Ettore Sottsass, the bright and bold chair was adjustable and proved ’70s designers wanted to create furniture pieces that resembled nothing like the oppressive office environments of the ’50s.

Richard Sapper’s Tizio Table Lamp from 1971 didn’t achieve commercial success until the 1980s, but ‘70s executives with an eye for minimalist design were drawn to the innovative light fixture.

With the rise of ergonomic design in the ’70s, chairs like the Supporto started to appear.

The Eames Aluminum Group series, from renowned designers Charles and Ray Eames, was originally commissioned as an outdoor furniture series, but it developed into one of the group’s most popular pieces — the aluminum-ribbed office chair, still produced today. This Herman Miller Eames Aluminum Group Racetrack Conference Table was a ’70s favorite.

IBM took the Selectric I, one of its popular office typewriter models, and gave it square corners, creating the Selectric II in 1971. Known as the “golf ball” typewriter, thanks to its rotating type element that allowed users to print different fonts in the same document, the Selectric II was a staple for every ‘70s office.

In the 1970s, designers took a great interest in sprucing up lobby areas and atriums, aiming to give guests something beautiful to look at — and sit on. The classic Verner Panton chair, with its curvaceous design and glossy lacquered finish, would often be found in the most stylish office waiting areas.

Offices started appearing in homes during the 1970s. In the UK, this was specifically linked to companies that instituted a three-day work week in an attempt to conserve electricity supplies during strikes. Many workers brought business home to stay on top of things.

Designs by Herman Miller, one of the leading American manufacturers of office furniture during the 1970s.