NeoCon is back in full force this year, showcasing the newest and best commercial furniture products on the market, and DISHER was there to soak it all in. Designers, manufacturers, architects, students, and more gathered in The Mart in downtown Chicago to access and observe this year’s most innovative solutions. As a first-time attendee of NeoCon, I was excited to scour the 1 million square feet of convention space and identify industry-wide trends in office furniture.
1. Micro-Conference Rooms Made for Video Calls
Compact tables with only a handful of chairs designed for smaller-scale team meetings were a prominent trend throughout Neocon’s floors. Furniture companies realize that employees want to have one or two-person meetings without having to reserve a massive conference room, and hybrid meetings between on and offsite team members have further driven the need for small meeting spaces. It was common to see miniature, soundproof “pods” with three to four chairs surrounding a small table equipped with video call capabilities.
2. More Methods for Office Privacy
After a long period of working from home, workers want that feeling of privacy and security that an open office does not provide. This was an overwhelming focus from companies, employing the use of screens, walls, barriers, and even pop-up tents to achieve this. Many of these privacy shields had acoustic properties in mind, using fabric and felt to deaden the noise. The modularity of these units was also a point of interest, as many of these fold down, unclip, or roll away entirely.
3. Warm and Approachable Textiles
Neocon 2022 could not get enough fabric! Textiles were used all over, from privacy panels to cabinet doors. Colorful textiles were used throughout the industry to add a touch of character to the environment. The warmer-colored fabric was heavily used to add warmth to the design and make it more approachable.
4. Thinner and Lighter Designs
The last trend I want to highlight is a push towards a thinner and visually lighter design. For tables, a consistent under-cut chamfer was used to imply a lean tabletop. Small diameter tubing was frequently used for the legs of tables and chairs to give a slimmer appearance. The backs of chairs were made from thin plastic material that tapered away, making them seem even thinner.
Some Final Thoughts: Take Time to Appreciate the Details
The four trends we highlighted are just the tip of the iceberg compared to the ocean of innovations and design elements showcased this year.
As a first-time NeoCon attendee, I was impressed (and a bit overwhelmed) by the sheer scale of this event. I knew that it wasn’t possible to see everything I wanted that day. So, I made a note of how to get the most out of this event; by taking time to appreciate that each booth had not only unique and interesting pieces of furniture but also thoughtful set design and props.
I highly recommend taking the time to immerse yourself, experience each area, and don’t rush. Instead, I suggest bringing a little notebook and pen to write down anything interesting that you noticed throughout the day. Equally, if not most importantly, take pictures!
There is not enough time in the day to stop and appreciate the small details and design considerations that went into each product, so take pictures of the things you want to reference later. It’s the post-event follow-up that is the true value of the event.