We’ve all had moments, usually during a particularly tedious meeting, when we’ve imagined working somewhere else. For some, that “somewhere else” is a lounger on a tropical beach. For others, it’s a café in Paris. Tough as your real workplace can be though, it’s got nothing on some of the fictional ones Hollywood has shown us over the years.
In many cases, these workplaces are awful in and of themselves. No one, after all, works on the Death Star expecting a relaxed and fulfilling work atmosphere.
In some cases, however, the thing that makes the workplace so bad is the design.
Initech: Office Space
Released in 1999, the office in Office Space perfectly encapsulated the nightmare cubicle farms that so many big corporate offices became in the 1990s.
As Wikipedia notes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Space), the film’s sympathetic depiction of ordinary IT workers garnered a cult following within that field, but it also addresses themes familiar to white-collar employees and the workforce in general.
Between the boring grey cubicles, the overbearing bureaucracy, and the talentless management, it was relatable. At the same time, however the total combination was bad enough to make most people think, “hey, at least I don’t work there”.
If you’re confused as to what that has to do with design, you’re part of the problem.
Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Whether we read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or watched the 1971 movie it inspired (we don’t talk about the 2005 abomination), many of us spent our childhoods wishing we could visit Mr Wonka’s wonderful chocolate factory. But when you think about it, the place would actually be a nightmare to work in.
Putting aside the fact that the Oompa Loompas are effectively slaves, there’s the lack of safety barriers around dangerous, and sometimes untested, equipment, and the nightmarish visions that apparently accompany every trip down the chocolate river.
It’s not, in other words, going to win any workplace design awards in the near future.
Consolidated Life: The Apartment
Today, the world’s most successful companies go out of their way to ensure their staff have the best possible office experience, with breakout areas, quiet pods, and relaxation stations.
It wasn’t always so. For a long time, companies were more concerned with squeezing as many people as possible into a single space and setting them to work. Consolidated Life, the company in 1960’s The Apartment, shows how soul-destroying this kind of design disaster could be.
The Death Star: Star Wars
Forget, for a moment, that everyone who works on the Death Star has to deal with the fact that they work for an evil empire. Forget that their black-clad, wheezy boss could force choke anyone who gets on the wrong side of him. It’s still not a well-designed workplace.
While the exhaust port vulnerability is understandable, there are a whole load of other questionable design choices.
Why, for instance, is it possible for R2D2 to so easily hack into the Death Star’s systems and how, exactly, did the flooded trash compactors end up with a monster living in them?
That can’t have been intentional, right?
Jurassic Park: Jurassic Park
Look, no matter how cool the idea of working with dinosaurs seems, Jurassic Park is not a well-designed working environment.
Ignoring the fact that it’s situated on an isolated island, making it difficult to get away from in an emergency, all the park’s systems, including power, security, and transportation are all tightly connected and centrally controlled.
As this 2013 blog post explains, that leads to catastrophic failure when the park’s power and security are turned off because of a rogue employee:
This integration and centralized controls mean that the park is vulnerable to a single point of failure, and the park’s systems are too easy to put into an inoperative unsafe state. A robust design would recognize the critical nature of the park’s infrastructure and institute physical, software, and cultural barriers to accidentally or intentionally placing the park into an unsafe state.
As the post goes on to explain, this is just one of a litany of design failures. In fact, a close reading of the post will have you wondering what potential Jurassic Park-style flaws there are in your office.
What do you think are the worst-designed workplaces in film? Let us know in the comments section below.
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