NeoCon brings together nearly 500 companies and 50,000 design professionals, providing 100 CEUs and showroom tours highlighting new products. We were honored to attend “the commercial design industry’s launch pad for innovation” at the 50th Annual NeoCon.
Similar to a project launch, our trip began with familiarizing ourselves with the site (Chicago) and networking with ten other Boston designers who comprised our team for the week. The icebreaker event at BeSpoke Cuisine divided the group into smaller task forces, each completing one course of the meal. We were excited to work together to make something wonderful, appreciating the unique skills and perspective everyone brought to the table!
The following morning, we headed to the Focal Point factory, which graciously sponsored our trip to Chicago with Boston Light Source. Familiar with the Focal Point, we were excited to delve into their design and development, manufacturing processes, and operational strategies. We were given the opportunity to weigh in on some of their newest product developments like the Skydome Edge Acoustic, an acoustical ceiling solution that compliments their Skydome LED pendant. We are already brainstorming ways we can utilize these innovations in one of our next projects!
Chicago’s architecture has an amazing blend of Neoclassical juxtaposed against the sleek lines of modern design. This contrast of old and new is also apparent in the sculptural art found in the city—for instance Buckingham Fountain with its Rococo-influenced intricacies in comparison to the simplicity of Cloud Gate. And for the record, we Bostonians agree… it’s most certainly a bean, not a cloud.
Over the past few years, we’ve started seeing a shift in healthcare design to take inspiration from other sectors of design, in particular hospitality and residential, and this year’s product introductions at the Merchandise Mart only reinforced this trend. Comfort and flexibility impact the user experience and we’re starting to see waiting spaces evolve. A combination of soft seating, usable work areas (such as a high-top counter), and areas for privacy versus family space are all considerations when designing these healthcare waiting environments. As designers, we are responsible for considering the needs of a wide range of users to make our designs as inclusive and comforting as possible.
The Merchandise Mart also featured a few finish showrooms such as Tarkett, where we saw new releases in both the resilient (Johnsonite) and carpet (Tandus) industries. Bold shapes and tile formats left us brainstorming fresh ways to look at flooring for future projects.
We kept our eye out for unique alternatives for products as our industry continues to look at other markets for inspiration. Carnegie, Buzzispace, and 3form all had great new concepts for combating acoustics, without sacrificing form for function. Incorporating decorative techniques to address acoustics could impact hospitals, specifically regarding HCAHP scores on the “Quietness of Hospital Environment”.
The Barbican showroom featured their NeoCon Gold-winning WEV collection and a new concept for ceiling design—a 3D fiberglass printed mesh grid system which could be accented in a variety of colors while allowing lighting, sprinklers, sound, and security systems to live above the tiles. This product lends itself to a particular type of installation where the ceiling plays a more influential role, but if specified in the right application, it could introduce color and pattern in an unexpected way.
A few more product highlights:
- KI featured their new desking series Tattoo, which won a NeoCon Gold award. This series embodied flexibility with options from sliding privacy screens, height adjustable worksurfaces, and hybrid storage and seating options.
- Doug Mockett had rows and rows of hardware and accessories. This was interesting to see firsthand as these details sometimes come as an afterthought. We’re always keeping an eye out for innovative design.
- Sherwin Williams highlighted color trends for the upcoming year. To combat the stereotype of hospitals being white and sterile, it’s important to incorporate fresh and engaging schemes. Paint is an inexpensive way to refresh a space.
Gerflor flooring’s European product designers were the masterminds behind the latest Gerflor launch—a terrazzo inspired sheet product with vibrant color options. This product would be perfect in bright colors for a pediatric environment but could also be used in neutral colors for a lobby space looking for a terrazzo visual for a fraction of the price. We’re seeing a growing interest in resilient flooring (rubber, sheet goods, and luxury vinyl tile) because of cleanability, comfort under foot, and acoustics.
NeoCon offered plenty of inspiration for us. We’re looking forward to applying these innovative products to our projects.