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Clipper Capsule--turn graphics on to see this unique thing!

The Clipper Capsule

By Daniel Will-Harris

"We are still sitting at a the computer in much the same way as our ancestors sat at a writing desk back at the turn of the century." Stupid, isn't it? Computers have given us a new way to work and now an industrial designer has finally created a new place to work.

Are we still going to be using 19th century furniture in the 21st century? Not if Douglas Ball can help it. Ball has designed a "virtual office," a completely self-contained and enclosed "capsule," 4-feet wide, 7-feet long, and 4 and a half feet high, designed specifically for concentrated (and ergonomically correct) computer use. Think of it as a cross between Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion car (without wheels), a flight simulator, and a beautiful, slightly art nouveau, maple and frosted lexan seashell/Wellsian time machine.

This computer cockpit provides perfect seating, viewing, lighting, as well as total privacy. You get completely inside it, much as you'd get in a very small car, and sitting in it feels kind of like sitting in the cockpit of a small plane--with everything you need within easy reach. As well as providing correct ergonomics, it's allows a person to have a separate office without a separate room.

This is not merely a prototype, but an actual production product. It's been in design and testing for six years, and will ship next month. Behind it is the former president of Knoll Office furniture (the biggest office furniture company in the world), who was also the former head of Sunar (famous for being one of the first to hire architect Michael Graves), so this has potential to become a fixture in offices (and homes) in coming years.

This totally new kind of furniture is for:

  • Computer users who require a setting specifically designed for concentrated computing work, without all the distractions of a traditional office,
  • Businesses who require a more flexible way to arrange "mind workers" that also gives them more privacy (and again, less distractions) than the traditional "open plan" offices (which people who work in them tend to dislike).
  • Telecommuting workers who may not have an extra room to devote to an office, but need a private workspace.
  • Consultant and site workers who need to establish an office base at different locations. Consulting firms such as Anderson consulting are What I want to do is let people know it exists and considering this unit so they can have a private office which moves with them from place to place.

The unit creates an ergonomically-correct setting which meets the new legal requirements for the workplace. The unit provides proper adjustable seating (which slides on a rail down the center of the unit), proper lighting, and proper ventilation which can otherwise be difficult to achieve.

While this is a first, it's not alone in what promises to be a revolution in furniture for computer users. SteelCase and Herman Miller, two major office furniture manufacturers, are coming out with less dramatic but similarly computer-centric solutions within a year.

While I have not personally worked in one of these units-I could certainly use one-and so could many people with home offices, or office spaces where workers need real privacy. I like that this was designed specifically for people and their computers--creating an environment for concentration, creativity, and comfort. It's high time we stopped thinking that machines alone can provide our workspace-the actual space around these machines must be tailored for computer-centric work.'

For more information about the CS-1:

Or visit the designer Douglas Ball's site

Balans Chair

Spending as much time at the computer as I do, and because of my background in interior design and architecture, I've long taken an interest in furniture that makes computers easier to live with. I was the first in non-furniture press to write about the "Balans" chair (you know, the pretzel-shaped things with the knee pads and no backs) nine years ago--I've sat on one every day since and am able to work long hours without back pain. This kind of chair has now become relatively standard for computer users-but beware of poor imitations-some of the imitations are good, some aren't. Unless the backless chair has wheels, it should be able to rock-the bottom should not be flat. The original wood versions (the "Variable" are still being made by Stokke in Norway but they're difficult to get in the US. A reader was kind enough to point out an American distributor called Back care basics that carries the complete line of Stokke chairs--visit them and take a look. Good ergonomic versions in tubular metal are also available from

Areon Chair

Areon chair

Since writing the above, I've actually changed chairs. While the Balans was great for me for many years, mine was wearing out and I decided to try something new. That chair is the Herman Miller Areon chair.

This remarkable chair uses a unique see-through "pellicle" fabric that breathes, and supports your body evenly. It has many adjustments designed to make it fit just right, and it even comes in three sizes for different body types. If you're looking for the world's most comfortable desk chair, look here.


Copyright 1998 Daniel Will-Harris,