Great Designs: Office Design During the Mad Men Period


Mad Men has been one of the most famous and successful office-based TV series in recent times. In fact, it’s become even more iconic than the era it was set in. But what was it like to be part of the real ‘Mad Men’ office, and why has Mad Men's office interior design become popular once again? We take a look in our latest Great Designs blog.



Mad Men: A Background

The acclaimed AMC television drama Mad Men is certainly an SEC office favourite, and not just for its great acting and stylish outfits, but also for its fantastic attention to detail regarding the office furniture and interior decoration of the period.


So, before we begin, and for those who don't know - who exactly were the Mad Men? Thomas Frank of Salon / Wikipedia says that "According to the show's pilot, the phrase "Mad men" was a slang term coined in the 1950s by advertisers working on Madison Avenue to refer to themselves, a claim that has since been disputed." 


1960s office design - Mad Men period


A 1960s office in the age of the Mad Men ~ Image source: Herman Miller



So, Mad Men or Mad Scientists? Perhaps this was the inspiration for the term: a collection of individuals, experimenting with vast ideas, all building towards the formulation of the modern advertising industry via their Madison Ave. laboratories. Either way, it was a colourful period, and one that we can't help but be inspired by.



Mad Men: 1960s Office Interior Decoration

By all accounts, a great deal of care and attention went into the TV sets, which were meticulously put together. People who worked in Madison Avenue in the ‘50s and ‘60s were very impressed with the level of historical detail shown in the programme’s sets, from the teak veneers to the Knoll-style couches, old fashioned telephones, ashtrays, drinks trolleys and swirly ‘60s wallpaper. The show went on to win numerous Emmy awards for its recreation of the period, and it has started to inspire modern office design trends, with current designers wanting to incorporate a touch of the shows mid-20th century style.


Office design during the Mad Men period


Style your office with a mid-20th Century look ~ Image source: Mid-Century Modernist



Sandy Teller, a former Mad Man himself, was very impressed with the attention to detail, such as "the look of the office, the IBM typewriters, even the coffee cups.", via NY Daily News.


In the ‘60s, Lore Parker worked as a ‘copy cub’ (junior copywriter) in the advertising company which the Mad Men’s: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency was based on, told one blogger that when she first saw the programme “I thought I was dreaming”, the set was so close to her own reality, with the office design effectively portraying how an office interior layout would be during that time, with the right furniture, office colour scheme and accessories, via Erickson Living.


A 2012 interview with Ginny Bahr, a woman who worked for advertising giant JWT for 60 years, uncovered some interesting facts about one particular change in office layout which was designed to curb the shenanigans that famously went on: “a JWT advertising exec and creative force to be reckoned with, took all of the doors off the offices to prevent inappropriate canoodling”, via Business Insider


Over the years, there have been many changes in the design of advertising offices, which have come a long way from the Mad Men days of executive offices - these days most bosses now sit in open offices with everyone else, and the private, behind closed-doors shenanigans are now a thing of the past.



Mad Men: The Office Furniture of the 1960s


Companies like Herman Miller and Knoll Inc. were incredibly popular in the period, due to their cutting edge designs and beautifully crafted furniture. Through the evolution of the mid-20th century, there were various changes due to cultural movements - 60s hippies culture, the introduction of colourful textiles and a move towards the open office layout. This prompted furniture makers to adapt to the ever-changing workplace environments, and through this evolution, a whole new generation of styles and designs emerged with an emphasis on comfort, style and ergonomics. 


Maria Fitzpatrick of The Telegraph says that the Mad Men era serves as a "glossy showcase for the postwar-to-late-Sixties “mid-century modern” design period, where each room in the Mad Men set is styled in meticulous nostalgic detail, and, according to experts, has promoted a better, more authentic, understanding of the period’s style.Numerous companies now offer modern recreations of the periods furniture, with many hip offices looking to splice old with new. 


1960s office furniture - Herman Miller: Eames Time-Life chair


1960s style - a Herman Miller: Eames Time-Life chair ~ Image source: 1st Dibs



Andrew Romano for The Washington Post, says that Mad Men's "furniture has made us modernists again, and reminded us that good design isn’t just about passing fancies of form and color, it’s about solving our collective problems" too!


If you’d like to bring a bit of timeless Mad Men-style to your commercial office interior, then contact us to take advantage of our free office space planning and consultancy service. We would be more than happy to help you blend the classic style of the mid-20th century with a modern aesthetic. Until next time.



Post by Adam Bissmire-Mullen