Computer Furniture Sucks

December 19, 2011

My dad spent most of his life in the furniture industry as a hands-on manager. He valued modern design and techniques but always with a connection to old school craftsmanship. He pioneered using computers and automation and looking at advancements in materials and construction techniques. So I grew up with an appreciation for what good solid furniture looked like.

Anyone looked at computer desks lately? Absolute pure unadulterated crap.

Do the people who design and sell these actually use computers? Or did they buy one in the 1980s and continue to use it as a design metaphor? Desks mostly seem designed for tiny grandmothers running PC's with Windows 95 stuffed into a dusty corner. They assume you live in a studio apartment and have to cram a desk between the washer and dryer. They build enclosures for giant ugly boxes that have 12 inch displays. Mice, what's that?

Look at this assortment I pulled out of Google's images:

Desk 1 Desk 2 Desk 3 Desk 4

Please, these suck so bad they could pass as vacuum cleaners.

At least the drumset looking one assumes you have a large display. There are hundreds of the lets-cram-stuff-into-a-tiny-space models. Do people actually buy these things? I am 6'5" tall (1.96 meters) and there is no way I am going to sit at a table that's 24 inches deep with sharp things underneath the desk. Keyboard trays are horrible enough but put them on a non-adjustable desk and they become knee eaters. People assume everyone has a tall computer box but today many people are getting laptops or iMacs. Some of the tables wouldn't even work with a 27inch display.

Right now I have an old desk I bought from a long defunct employer. It's large but solid with a big surface area for all the crap around me. Someday I'd like to have a simpler glass topped desk but most of what I see looks like this

Glass desk 1


Glass desk 2

I don't want modern art I want something with surface area and little else. Maybe a touch of elegance. I think I saw that first glass desk in a coroner's autopsy room.

Today computers are (supposed to be) wireless with large displays. As the computer itself shrinks to tablet size we don't need so many nooks and crannies to hide behemoth hardware in. Not everyone is a little person living in a closet. What wrong with a little simply adjustable height? If you insist on adding silly features like keyboard trays make them detachable. Keep the area around the feet clear of obstacles. Give us room to lay out our phones and tablets and such.

And do not, on pain of permanent ridicule, try to sell me a desk with a computer from the middle ages:

Old computer

This is the twenty first century. Buy a new computer.

I imagine I will have to build my own desk if I really want one that works. My ideal surface is 2 meters by 1 meter or so of some decent quality glass or glasslike material sitting on two solid end pieces to hold it up (might need a little support across the back). Maybe a nice little corner table on one side for small items. No drawers or platforms. I wouldn't mind a nice finger adjustable display arm or two. That's it.

A comfy armless chair would be nice (the one I am sitting on is mostly broken but is still the best chair I ever owned).

Someday all of our furniture will be imaginary as we plug our brains directly into the computer and our whole office will be as in a holodeck. Until then I will laugh at designer's feeble attempts to make computer furniture that doesn't suck.