Notes from NeoCon 2017
OI President, Bill Coons and OI Director of Design and Operations, Susan Coons –
Representing Office Interiors, we recently made our annual trek to Chicago for NeoCon, North America’s most important annual design exposition and conference for commercial interiors. We attend NeoCon every year to look for unique solutions to help our clients achieve workspace goals and create more productive work environments. Each year we wonder if we will see unique innovation or if it will be another year of ‘me too’. This year’s show did not disappoint, and, in fact, not only did we see many new products and fresh design solutions, but there was also a significant increase in attendance, with more than 50,000 people in Chicago for the 2017 show.
We’re excited to share our overall impressions of the 2017 show, favorite new products and emerging trends, which focused on four or five major areas that seem to be important to this workplace community and reflect the continued evolution of the way we work.
Open workspaces designed and furnished to accommodate different work-styles and tasks
Workspaces continue to be more open, with fewer panels, so we saw a lot of new ideas for collaborative areas that give people flexibility. We observed office space designs that promote a lively sense of community and an engaging workplace, with a combination of gathering, collaboration and heads-down workspaces.
Corporate workspace or residential living room?
Social community settings were prominent at this year’s show. It seems that everyone will be sitting in meetings or conferences in spaces that look and feel more like living rooms than the more sterile environments found in previous conference room spaces. Workstations and spaces have a more residential feel, featuring mid-century modern style with warm wood surfaces and accents, more grey, brown and neutral tones and attention to design and detail. Importance was also placed on quality craftsmanship and thoughtfulness in terms of product function and customization.
Accent on acoustics
There was a significant emphasis on various ways to offer open spaces, with an increased focus on acoustic management through a variety of panels and solutions. We’ve transitioned from “white noise” to sound management in a significant way, through new products that offer sound-deadening solutions on walls, ceilings and in freestanding products.
High-tech yields higher productivity
Exhibitors this year also seemed to place greater emphasis on technology. Flat screens and personal technology were prominent. We observed flat screens used in multiple ways and found them in a variety of spaces from open area seating groups to just about every vertical surface. It appears that offices will continue to eliminate paper, with work spaces of the future featuring writable surfaces both on the tops of the general work surface as well as on all the vertical surfaces, allowing employees the ability to capture ideas in the moment.
Sit-stand all day keeps the doctor away
We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking, and the “sit-stand” was the answer to improved health in the workplace. The height adjustable feature is now incorporated (and hidden) into the most traditional desks as well as built into walls to address that ever-aggravating issue of wire management.
Throughout NeoCon 2017, we consistently saw evidence of a movement toward a more humanized workspace, with environments that felt more like places you would choose to, rather than must, work. NeoCon also offered a lot of educational programs supporting this movement as well as the psychology of work. We returned from NeoCon enthused and excited about the emerging trends in our industry and how we can implement these new products and innovative design solutions for our clients in their own workspaces. Well done, NeoCon 2017! We look forward to our return next June.