Last month, tens of thousands of designers, architects, and trade professionals gathered in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart to check out the latest furniture innovations during NeoCon 2013.
North American’s largest design exposition and conference for commercial interiors features the latest design trends, products and concepts for everything from offices to hospitals to homes from more than 700 exhibitors. With a seemingly unending recession plaguing the office furniture world, attendance at this year’s event, up slightly from 2012 with 41,488 visitors, might indicate business is finally starting to pick up.
Not surprisingly in an era where seemingly everyone is tethered to a smartphone or tablet, technology integration was a huge focus of this year’s NeoCon. Some of the coolest pieces found at the fair reflected the need for a seamless digital interface at work.
Take a look at the most buzzed-about displays:
Haworth’s Bluescape: One of the most talked about exhibits at NeoCon was Bluescape, a cloud-based virtual workspace allowing employees to collaborate in the same room or across continents via everything from wall-sized touchscreens to iPads to mobile devices. It received a gold for workplace technologies and took home the Best of Competition award at NeoCon. “Bluescape was created to accelerate business results by enhancing innovation, strategizing, solving problems and sharing information in real time,” Bluescape CEO Scott Poulton said.
Steelcase Gesture chair: This task chair was designed to support posture shifts as a person goes from using a laptop to a tablet to a smartphone. To create the chair, Steelcase conducted a global posture study by observing 2,000 people from 11 countries in a wide range of postures while using new technology. From the study, they isolated nine new postures created by our use of modern devices and designed the chair to best accommodate these positions.
Gill industries: The Grand Rapids, Mich. company showcased wireless technology integrated into a workstation that allows multiple devices to be charged on a single surface without being plugged in. That’s right: No wires, cables, docks or plugs needed and devices don’t need to be arranged in any specific way, either. Just set them down and enjoy your morning cup of coffee.
Herman Miller’s Living Office: With its Living Office line, Herman Miller addresses the major shift in how workers work, reflected the blurring line between work and home life and the reliance on digital technology. The line was also designed to encourage people to connect and communicate; the result is an workplace that resembles more of a coffee shop than an office with bench seating and cafe-esque tables sitting alongside desks and office chairs.
AllSteel Create: The winner of the Best of NeoCon, the Furniture Systems’ Gold Award, this line focuses on collaboration, connectivity and flexibility by offering companies a wide variety of options for configuring and reconfiguring their work environments and featuring worksurfaces, support systems, screens, storage and other tools.
Rendezvous Meeting Booth: This mobile meeting room from Swiftspace offers up to six employees a comfortable, informal spot to meet and can be set up in under a minute. The piece was a Best of Neocon winner in the Conference Room Furniture category.
Other pieces that struck a chord included the Guardian, an office chair with bulletproof vest and the Locus Workstation, a not-quite-standing, not-quite-sitting option from noted shoe designer Brian Keen.
According to TalkContract some other notable trends include:
- Fuchsia as an eye-popping accent color.
- Felt as an acoustics-friendly cover for chairs, sofas and tables and on wall hangings, panel products and flooring.
- Booths, hoods and other solutions for offering privacy to individuals having conversations on a cell phone.
- Furniture that found new and unique ways to inspire collaboration among employees