cartoon phone booth and beanbag

A brief recap of our visit to Neocon 2014…

For those who are not familiar, Neocon is an annualexposition for commercial interiors; the industry leaders (and followers) come to Chicago to showcase their latest furniture, fixtures, and materials. It can be quite a party, but we’re usually there to uncover trends, be inspired, and admire the great design work that many of the companies are continuing to produce. We saw a shift in the respect for individual needs and designing spaces that accommodate them. We’d like to share what we saw and wherewe see it going…

What we saw…

If you attend Neocon on a yearly basis,you’ll undoubtedly notice the trend for companies to replicate each others’ designs as they viefor limited market space. Although the “sameness” of the show can be underwhelming,they’re beginning to clone the right things: furniture and systems that are beginning to address the individuals’ wildly varying work habits and personalities. The leaders are beginning to address the needs of humans in a way that break rooms, cubicles, and private offices never have: beanbags and phone-booths.

Beanbags

The need for collaborative spaces has been identified for a while. We saw some companies pushing it to the limit with their designs. Some spaces seemed to be more appropriate for naps and story-time over productivity, but the essence of making comfortable collaborative spaces was there. Privacy screens and sound deadening were showcased as means to carve out these comfy areas in an otherwise noisy, busy, and distracting environment (e.g. Neocon 2014). This is just one side of the work style spectrum.

Phone-booths

On the other end of the spectrum, companies were introducing a seemingly new configuration: glass enclosures of varying sizes that accommodated silent workspace free from the typical distraction of an open office. Steelcase was a clear leader in this effort with their collaboration with Susan Cain(If you haven’t read her bookQuiet,I highly recommend it). The spaces need to be experienced to really understand them. The feelings of controlling your disconnection from the office space are empowering; it seemed like a great place to put the hammer down and get some things done. Of course, it’s subjective and everyone is different. This is the beauty of the new designs coming from the leaders.

Where we see it going…

The ability to solve one problem with one solution is easy; design beanbags for collaboration and phone-booths for uninterrupted focus. The fundamentally more difficult endeavoris providing a solution that answers multiple (and extremely different) needs at any given time. Humans and work styles are constantly changing so why can’t the furniture keep pace? We see great potential in adaptive work/living environments.

We’d love to hear your accounts of the show or your thoughts on the future of designing for diverse personalities in the office… Better yet, we’d love to develop adaptive solutions with you. Please leave a comment below.

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