Dilbert is an American comic strip written and illustrated by Scott Adams. First published on April 16, 1989, Dilbert is known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office featuring the engineer Dilbert as the title character. The strip has spawned several books, an animated television series, a video game, and hundreds of Dilbert-themed merchandise items. Dilbert Future and The Joy of Work are among the most read books in the series. Adams received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award in 1997 and the Newspaper Comic Strip Award in the same year for his work on the strip. Dilbert appears online and in 2000 newspapers worldwide in 65 countries and 25 languages.
Dilbert - The Knack "The Curse of the Engineer" - "The Knack" clip from Dilbert S01E09: Dilbert is diagnosed with "The Knack" at a young age and is destined to become an engineer! Oh no!!!!
The comic strip originally revolved around Dilbert and his "pet" dog Dogbert in their home. Many plots revolved around Dilbert's engineer nature or his bizarre inventions. Also prominent were plots based on Dogbert's megalomaniacal ambitions. Later, the location of most of the action moved to Dilbert's workplace and the strip started to satirize technology, workplace, and company issues. The comic strip's popular success is attributable to its workplace setting and themes, which are familiar to a large and appreciative audience; Adams has said that switching the setting from Dilbert's home to his office was "when the strip really started to take off". The workplace location is Silicon Valley.
Dilbert portrays corporate culture as a Kafkaesque world of bureaucracy for its own sake and office politics that stand in the way of productivity, where employees' skills and efforts are not rewarded, and busy work is praised. Much of the humor emerges as the audience sees the characters making obviously ridiculous decisions that are natural reactions to mismanagement.
Themes explored include:
- Engineers' personal traits
- Idiosyncrasy of style
- Hopelessness in dating (and general lack of social skills)
- Attraction to tools and technological products
- Business ethics
- Incompetent and sadistic management
- Scheduling and budgeting without reference to reality
- Failure to reward success or penalize laziness
- Penalizing employees for failures caused by bad management
- Failure to improve others' morale, lowering it instead
- Failure to communicate objectives
- Handling of projects doomed to failure or cancellation
- Sadistic HR policies with evil rationale
- Corporate bureaucracy
- ISO audits
- Budgeting, accounting, payroll and financial advisors
- Stupidity of the general public
- Susceptibility to advertising
- Susceptibility to peer pressure
- Susceptibility to flattery
- Gullibility in the face of obvious scams
- Fourth World countries and outsourcing (Elbonia)
- Bizarre cultural habits
- Lack of understanding of capitalism
The Republic of Elbonia is a fictional country to which Dilbert's company frequently outsources work. It is an impoverished and dysfunctional former communist state in Eastern Europe that has embraced capitalism, although North Elbonia remains totalitarian. The entire country is covered in waist-deep mud; the inhabitants (aside from the occasional sentient pig) all have heavy beards and clothing similar to Orthodox Christian monks.
The popularity of the comic strip within the corporate sector has led to the Dilbert character being used in many business magazines and publications to including making several appearances on the cover of Fortune Magazine. Similarly, several newspapers run the comic in their business section rather than in the regular comics section (similar to how Doonesbury is often featured in the editorial section due to its pointed commentary).
Criticism and parody
Media analyst Norman Solomon and cartoonist Tom Tomorrow claim that while Adams's caricatures of corporate culture seem to project empathy for white-collar workers, the satire ultimately plays into the hands of upper corporate management itself. Solomon describes the characters of Dilbert, none of whom occupies a position higher than middle management, as dysfunctional time-wasters whose inefficiencies detract from corporate values like 'productivity' and 'growth', a very favorable outlook for managers. Though Dilbert and his office-mates often find themselves baffled or victimized by the whims of managerial behavior, they never seem to question it openly. Solomon cites the Xerox corporation's use of Dilbert strips and characters in internally distributed 'inspirational' pamphlets:
"Xerox management had recognized what more gullible Dilbert readers did not: Dilbert is an offbeat sugary substance that helps the corporate medicine go down. The Dilbert phenomenon acceptsâ"and perversely eggs onâ"many negative aspects of corporate existence as unchangeable facets of human nature...As Xerox managers grasped, Dilbert speaks to some very real work experiences while simultaneously eroding inclinations to fight for better working conditions."
Adams responded in the February 2, 1998 strip and in his book The Joy of Work, simply by restating Solomon's argument, apparently suggesting that it was absurd and required no rebuttal.
In 1997, Tom Vanderbilt wrote in a similar vein in The Baffler magazine:
"Labor unions haven't adopted Dilbert characters as insignia. But corporations in droves have rushed to link themselves with Dilbert. Why? Dilbert mirrors the mass media's crocodile tears for working peopleâ"and echoes the ambient noises from Wall Street."
Bill Griffith, in his daily strip Zippy the Pinhead, used his strip as a forum to criticize Adams's artwork as simplistic. Adams responded on May 18, 1998, with a comic strip called Pippy the Ziphead, "cramming as much artwork in as possible so no one will notice there's only one joke...[and] it's on the reader". Dilbert notes that the strip is "nothing but a clown with a small head who says random things" and Dogbert responds that he is "maintaining his artistic integrity by creating a comic that no one will enjoy". In September of the same year, Griffith mocked Adams by mimicking his Pippy the Ziphead creation with a strip showing stiff, Dilbert-like creations in an office setting and one of the characters saying, "I sense a joke was delivered".
In the late 1990s, an amateur cartoonist named Karl HÃ¶rnell began submitting a comic strip parodying both Dilbert and the Image Comics series The Savage Dragon to Dragon creator Erik Larsen. This soon became a regular feature in the Savage Dragon comic book, titled The Savage Dragonbert and Hitler's Brainbert ("Hitler's Brainbert" being both a loose parody of Dogbert as well as the Savage Dragon villain identified as Adolf Hitler's disembodied, superpowered brain). The strip began as a specific parody of the comic book itself, set loosely within the office structure of Dilbert, with HÃ¶rnell doing an emulation of Adams's cartooning style.
In the Family Guy episode "Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington", Peter comments that the business world is funny. The scene then cuts away to a parody of Dilbert, after which Peter remarks, "Well, sometimes the business world is funny."
Dilbert has occasionally been criticized for alleged "insensitivity" and off-color jokes, as documented by Adams in The Joy of Work. One of the most widely-attacked strips involved the Pointy-Haired Boss being saved in an airplane crash because nuns were on board ("You were saved by prayer?" "No, padding. They don't do a lot of aerobics at the nunnery."). The comic was published the same week as the death of Mother Teresa, leading to a huge backlash. His depiction of Elbonia has also drawn criticism from a variety of corners.
In Dilbert, Adams recounts having been attacked for the alleged political content of his work, although in the case of one such strip (where oil drilling kills a unicorn) he excuses himself by saying "I just thought the image was funny". In particular, a series of strips in which Dogbert worked as a talk radio host drew criticism from conservatives for his supposed attack on Rush Limbaugh (which Adams denied in Seven Years of Highly Defective People). Earlier strips did engage in a degree of low-key political satire (for instance, a series of strips in 1992 where Dogbert runs for President), but since the early 1990s Adams has mostly focused the strip on corporate issues.
Terms invented by Adams in relation to the strip, and sometimes used by fans in describing their own office environments, include "Induhvidual". This term is based on the American English slang expression "duh!" The conscious misspelling of individual as induhvidual is a pejorative term for people who are not in the DNRC (Dogbert's New Ruling Class). Its coining is explained in Dilbert Newsletter #6. The strip has also popularized the usage of the terms "cow-orker" and PHB.
In 1997, Scott Adams masqueraded as a management consultant to Logitech executives (as Ray Mebert), with the cooperation of the company's vice-chairman. He acted in much the way he portrays management consultants in the comic strip, with an arrogant manner and bizarre suggestions, such as comparing mission statements to broccoli soup. He convinced the executives to replace their existing mission statement for their New Ventures Group, "to provide Logitech with profitable growth and related new business areas", with "to scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission-inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings".
To demonstrate what can be achieved with the most mundane objects if planned correctly and imaginatively, Adams has worked with companies to develop "dream" products for Dilbert and company. In 2001, he collaborated with design company IDEO to come up with the "perfect cubicle", a fitting creation since many of the Dilbert strips make fun of the standard cubicle desk and the environment it creates. The result was both whimsical and practical.
This project was followed in 2004 with designs for Dilbert's Ultimate House (abbreviated as DUH). An energy-efficient building was the result, designed to prevent many of the little problems that seem to creep into a normal building. For instance, to save time spent buying and decorating a Christmas tree every year, the house has a large (yet unapparent) closet adjacent to the living room where the tree can be stored from year to year.
In addition to the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Awards won by Adams, the Dilbert strip has received a variety of other awards. Adams was named best international comic strip artist of 1995 in the Adamson Awards given by the Swedish Academy of Comic Art.
Dilbert was named the best syndicated strip of 1997 in the Harvey Awards and won the Max & Moritz Prize as best international comic strip for 1998. In the Squiddy Awards, Dilbert was named the best daily strip of 1996 and 1997, and the best comic strip of 1998 and 2000. The strip also won the Zombie Award as the best comics strip of 1996 and 1997, and the 1997 Good Taste Award as the best strip of 1996.
Comic strip compilations
Books in bold indicate special compilations.
- Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons â" April 16, 1989 (first strip) to October 21, 1989 ISBN 0-8362-1758-6
- Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies ISBN 0-8362-1757-8
- Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless ISBN 0-8362-1737-3
- Shave the Whales â" October 22, 1989 to August 4, 1990 ISBN 0-8362-1740-3
- Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy! â" August 5, 1990 to May 18, 1991 0-8362-1779-9
- It's Obvious You Won't Survive by Your Wits Alone â" May 19, 1991 to December 13, 1992 ISBN 0-8362-0415-8
- Still Pumped from Using the Mouse â" December 14, 1992 to September 27, 1993 ISBN 0-8362-1026-3
- Fugitive From the Cubicle Police â" September 28, 1993 to February 4, 1995 ISBN 0-8362-2119-2
- Casual Day Has Gone Too Far â" February 5, 1995 to November 19, 1995 ISBN 0-8362-2899-5
- Seven Years of Highly Defective People â" 1997; strips from 1989 to 1995, with handwritten notes by Scott Adams ISBN 0-8362-3668-8
- I'm Not Anti-Business, I'm Anti-Idiot â" November 20, 1995 to August 31, 1996 ISBN 0-8362-5182-2
- Journey to Cubeville â" September 1, 1996 to January 4, 1998 ISBN 0-8362-6745-1
- Don't Step in the Leadership â" January 12, 1998 to October 18, 1998
- Dilbert Gives You the Business â" Collection of favorites before 1999.
- Random Acts of Management â" October 19, 1998 to July 25, 1999
- A Treasury of Sunday Strips: Version 00 â" 2000; color version of all Sunday strips from 1995 to 1999
- Excuse Me While I Wag â" July 26, 1999 to April 30, 2000
- When Did Ignorance Become A Point Of View? â" May 1, 2000 to February 4, 2001
- Another Day In Cubicle Paradise â" February 5, 2001 to November 11, 2001
- What Do You Call A Sociopath In A Cubicle? Answer: A Coworker â" A compilation of strips featuring Dilbert's coworkers
- When Body Language Goes Bad â" November 12, 2001 to August 18, 2002
- Words You Don't Want to Hear During Your Annual Performance Review â" August 19, 2002 to May 25, 2003
- Don't Stand Where the Comet is Assumed to Strike Oil â" May 26, 2003 to February 29, 2004
- It's Not Funny if I Have to Explain It â" 2004; strips from 1997 to 2004, with more of Adams's handwritten notes
- The Fluorescent Light Glistens Off Your Head â" March 1, 2004 to December 5, 2004
- Thriving on Vague Objectives â" December 6, 2004 to September 11, 2005
- What Would Wally Do? â" 2006; strips focused on Wally.
- Try Rebooting Yourself â" September 12, 2005 to June 18, 2006
- Positive Attitude â" June 19, 2006 to March 25, 2007
- Cubes and Punishment â" 2007; a collection of comic strips on workplace cruelty.
- This is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value â" March 26, 2007 to January 5, 2008
- Freedom's Just Another Word for People Finding Out You're Useless â" January 6, 2008 to October 12, 2008
- 14 Years of Loyal Service in a Fabric-Covered Box â" October 13, 2008 to July 25, 2009
- Problem Identified: And You're Probably Not Part of the Solution â" 2010
- I'm Tempted to Stop Acting Randomly â" July 26, 2009 to May 2, 2010
- Your Accomplishments Are Suspiciously Hard to Verify â" 2011 
- How's That Underling Thing Working Out for You? â" May 3, 2010 to February 12, 2011
- Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side that's Right â" February 13, 2011 to November 20, 2011
- I Can't Remember If We're Cheap or Smart â" 2012
- Your New Job Title Is 'Accomplice' â" November 21, 2011 to August 26, 2012(For some unknown reason the strips from 8/27/12 to 10/7/12 were not collected in this book or the next.)
- I Sense a Coldness to Your Mentoring â" October 8, 2012 to July 14, 2013
- Go Add Value Someplace Else â" July 15, 2013 to July 20, 2014
- The Dilbert Principle
- Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook
- The Dilbert Future
- The Joy of Work
- Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel
- Slapped Together: The Dilbert Business Anthology (The Dilbert Principle, The Dilbert Future, and The Joy of Work, published together in one book)
- Telling It Like It Isn't â" 1996; ISBN 0-8362-1324-6
- You Don't Need Experience If You've Got Attitude â" 1996; ISBN 0-8362-2196-6
- Access Denied: Dilbert's Quest for Love in the Nineties â" 1996; ISBN 0-8362-2191-5
- Conversations With Dogbert â" 1996; ISBN 0-8362-2197-4
- Fugitives From The Cubicle Police. 1996. ISBNÂ 0836221192.Â
- Work is a Contact Sport â" 1997; ISBN 0-8362-2878-2
- The Boss: Nameless, Blameless and Shameless â" 1997; ISBN 0-8362-3223-2
- The Dilbert Bunch â" 1997; ISBN 0-8362-2879-0
- No You'd Better Watch Out â" 1997
- Please Don't Feed The Egos â" 1997; ISBN 0-8362-3224-0
- Random Acts of Catness â" 1998; ISBN 0-8362-5277-2
- You Can't Schedule Stupidity â" 1998; ISBN 0-8362-5632-8
- Dilbert Meeting Book Exceeding Tech Limits â" 1998; ISBN 0-7683-2028-3
- Trapped In A Dilbert World â" Book Of Days â" 1998; ISBN 0-7683-2030-5
- Workâ"The Wally Way â" 1999; ISBN 0-8362-7480-6
- Alice in Blunderland â" 1999; ISBN 0-8362-7479-2
- All Dressed Down And Nowhere To Go â" 2002; ISBN 0-7407-2931-4
- Dilbert's Guide to the Rest of Your Life: Dispatches from Cubicleland â" 2007; ISBN 0-7624-2781-7
- Dilbert Sudoku Comic Digest: 200 Puzzles Plus 50 Classic Dilbert Cartoons â" 2008; ISBN 0-7407-7250-3
- Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert â" 2008; 576 pages, â6500 strips, and Scott Adams's notes from 1989 to 2008.
- Corporate Shuffle by Richard Garfield â" 1997; A Dilbert-branded card game similar to Wizard of the Coast's The Great Dalmuti and the drinking game President
- The Dilberito, a vegan microwave burrito
- There was a line of Dilbert mints which had names along the lines of Manage-mints, Accomplish-mints, Perform-mints and Improve-mints
- Dilbert: the Board Game â" 2006; by Hyperion Games; A Dilbert-branded board game that was named one of Games magazine's Top 100 Games
- Day-by-Day calendars featuring the comic strip are available every year.
- Dilbert: Escape From Cubeville was released in 2010 in the Dilbert store section of dilbert.com
Dilbert was adapted into a UPN animated television series, which ran for two seasons from January 25, 1999, to July 25, 2000. The first season centered on the creation of a new product called the "Gruntmaster 6000", including the idea process and testing by one Bob Bastard. The second season had no connecting story arc; plots varied from Wally finding disciples ("The Shroud of Wally") to Dilbert being accused of mass murder ("The Trial"). The second season two-episode finale included Dilbert getting pregnant with the child of a cow, a hillbilly, Robot DNA, "several dozen engineers", an elderly billionaire, and an alien, eventually ending up in a custody battle with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the Judge. Featured voice actors included Daniel Stern as Dilbert, Chris Elliott as Dogbert, and Kathy Griffin as Alice.
On April 7, 2008, dilbert.com presented its first Dilbert animation. The new Dilbert animations are animated versions of original comic strips produced by RingTales and animated by Powerhouse Animation Studios. The animation videos run for around 30 seconds each and are added every weekday. On December 10, 2009 the RingTales produced animations were made available as a calendar application for mobile devices.
"Drunken lemurs" case
In October 2007, the Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington, Iowa, notified its staff that the casino was closing and they were going to be laid off. An employee of seven years, David Steward then posted on an office bulletin board the October 26, 2007, Dilbert strip that compared management decisions to those of "drunken lemurs". The casino called this "very offensive"; they identified him from a surveillance tape, fired him, and tried to prevent him from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. However, in December 2007 an administrative law judge ruled that he would receive benefits, as his action was not intentional misbehavior. Scott Adams said it might be the first confirmed case of an employee being fired for posting a Dilbert cartoon. On February 20, 2008, the first of a series of Dilbert strips showed Wally being caught posting a comic strip which "compares managers to drunken lemurs". Adams later said that fans should stick to posting Garfield strips, as no one gets fired for that.
Dilbert.com's interactive cartoons
In April 2008, Scott Adams announced that United Media would be instituting an interactive feature on Dilbert.com, allowing fans to write speech bubbles and, in the near future, interact with Adams about the content of the strips. Adams has spoken positively about the change, saying, "This makes cartooning a competitive sport."
- Dilbert's Desktop Games, a video game
- The Dilbert principle
- Peter Principle, the opposite (and original basis) of the Dilbert Principle
- Plop: The Hairless Elbonian, another comics series by Scott Adams
- Seagull manager, management style
- Superiority, a 1951 short story by Arthur C. Clarke which anticipates some themes of Dilbert
- User Friendly, a comic similarly focused on technology issues in a corporate setting
- Dilbert home page (requires Adobe Flash, version without flash)
- The Dilbert Blog
- National Cartoonists Society awards page
- Dilbert Creator Scott Adams Presents His 10 Favorite Strips