Why Your Conference Room Table Is Probably Bad For Business

I am speaking specifically of the negative impact that one particular type of conference room table can have on the work product of those compelled to sit at them in group situations. For thirteen years we had a table in the large conference room at Pixar. A Google image search for conference room tables confirms the skew, with over 95 percent of the photographs containing pieces that are either pure rectangles, ellipses, or elongated forms with rounded sides or ends. It wasn’t until we happened to have a meeting in a smaller room with a square table that John and I realized what was wrong. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of Catmull’s tale of woe is that he and his fellow Pixalytes could have avoided thirteen years of meeting misery had Jobs or his designer been familiar with the work of a British psychiatrist named Humphry Osmond before choosing the table of tears. The problem obviously wasn’t the staff, which was undoubtedly blessed with talented people; it was that individuals were oriented in a grid pattern relative to each other owing to the shape of the table and room. You can further reiterate the centralized focal point of the room by echoing the table configuration in such ancillary features as lighting fixtures, flooring, and ornamental details.


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