“Cubical” vs. “Cubicle”

I’ve seen too many misuses of the word cubical in the past couple of days, so I thought I’d post this quick guide.

A cubicle is the office workspace created in by a system of dividing walls, such as the one below:

An office cubicle with a computer, a phone and little else.

The cubicle system evolved from Herman Miller’s Action Office, a system for open-plan offices designed by Robert Propst. Propst wanted to design a system that boosted productivity; it was never his intention to build something whose primary purpose was to pack as many workers as possible into as little space as possible. He is said to have denounced the cubicle systems inspired by Action Office as “monolithic insanity”.

Cubical means “shaped like a cube” or “having the qualities of a cube”, such as the Borg ship in the photo below:

A Borg cube, as seen from the main screen on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Perhaps the confusion between the two words arises because both cubicles and the cubical Borg ship are designed to house interchangeable drones who work in the service of a hive mind. Remember: they don’t have “Casual Fridays” on the Borg Cube!

Guy in shorts and golf shirt in a Borg chamber at "Star Trek: the Experience"