notes on office art


Recently on Twitter, I wrote:

Art that brightens up the office vs Art that brightens up the home. Two different vibes altogether. I prefer making the former.

To which my friend, Kathy Sierra replied:

Good! Homes are less likely to *need* brightening the way offices do. I can brighten my home just by making toast.

Whether we’re talking wee cube grenade laser copies or something much larger, like The Purple Cow Print, when I launched the gapingvoid gallery earlier this year, that was my intention- to make art for the workspace.
This desire goes back to my early years working as an advertising creative. There was always cool stuff- fine art, posters, graphic design, cartoons- hanging up everywhere. Stuff to amuse and inspire us, stuff to tweak our brains in the right direction. And though its effect on the agency’s bottom line would’ve been hard to measure, somehow it worked- or at least, helped.
Why can’t all offices be more like this? Is there some law that requires certain types of businesses to maintain a dull, gray, machine-like, life-sucking visual environment? You could ague that maybe for some companies, sure, but that’s not a world I’ve ever aspired to belong to.
“Office Art” tends to come in two main categories: 1. REALLY expensive. 2. REALLY cheesy.
I wanted to make office art that was neither…
[Afterthought:] Of course, a lot of my collectors work from home, therefore their offices are in the house, not in an office building. But the prints were made with the workspace in mind, not the “living” space, regardless.

[Backstory: About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]


  1. Michele Kersey says:

    I like that your art brightens up my office, which is in the “conversation” space in my home (living/dining room). For the increasing community of digital nomads who work from home – or from wherever they are at the moment – your art is an equal opportunity offender. In a good way.

  2. Thanks Michele! I hope the print is “working” for you :)

  3. I think my home office needs “office art” more than a regular office does. My wife wants me to hang “home art” in mine but I resist. I need the mind set change.
    That being said the “Corinthians” piece of yours I have works in both places for me.

  4. Hear hear, Hugh!

  5. katie ledger says:

    my “Corinthians” is large,beatifully framed and above MY BED !
    ” We need to talk” is large, beautifully framed and in my office.
    It depends on the piece …..I think it’s art that grabs you by the short and curlies…thanks Hugh
    Katie :)

  6. Aaaarrrgghh, the “REALLY cheesy” ones remind me of a company I used to work for. They really liked that stuff. I don’t.
    Btw: I have the recession cartoon hanging in the office (just a simple print-out, taped to the wall), and given the attention the economic crisis is getting these days, it IS a grenade :-)

  7. What, you don’t like the picture with the animal or landscape and words like “PERSEVERANCE” with some sort of stupid quote underneath? That always managed to get me to work harder for less.

  8. “Really Cheesy” makes me think about those De-Motivational posters that popped up here and there. They were brilliant commentary on the often too Hallmark-esque ‘inspirational photo with quote’ posters.

  9. Deborah Wage says:

    Demotivators at

  10. It’s true . . . it’s just an excuse. Adapt .

  11. It’s true . . . it’s an excuse. Adapt.

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

Seth Godin
Best Selling Author

His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

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Last year my State of the College address was 76 slides loaded with data. This year it was 14 cartoons that were substantially more memorable.

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In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

Brian Clark
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