After a few years of working in the marketing department for CS, including writing, advertising, and reading about our company participating in trade shows, my boss thought it was time for me to experience the glitz and glam of NeoCon for myself. A ticket to the biggest commercial interior design show in America—how could I not be giddy?
On June 13th, my colleague and I arrived at theMART in Chicago to kick off the first day of NeoCon’s 53rd annual show, and we immediately stepped into a throng of people. Hundreds of attendees of different ages and backgrounds swiftly passed by as we joined a labyrinth line ending at the registration tables. The chaos was exciting, a bit overwhelming, and thankfully organized enough that the queue moved surprisingly quickly. My eyes couldn’t stop scanning the different outfits people wore. From big pops of color and bold design statements you’d see in NYC magazines to suits and professional attire to completely casual apparel and everything in between, I was ready to dive in!
After checking in, my colleague and I looked through the NeoCon itinerary guidebook and realized that the show included 16 floors…yes, you heard that right, not 15 floors or 17 floors but 16 FLOORS of companies showcasing their products. If you think the long lines ended at the registration tables, think again about the elevators! After a quick strategy session to decide how to properly tackle this bad boy of a show, we made what turned out to be a wise choice by starting on the top floors and walking down the stairs to avoid the elevator lines.
Each floor was its own adventure. The top floors, 10-16, were laid out like a shopping mall; companies had huge showrooms to display their products, and how they set their space up played a huge role in whether or not someone decided to stop in and see what they had to offer.
We made our way down to the single-digit floors (which some people in the elevator referred to as the more “happening” floors) and immediately felt the momentum picking up. Opening the door to a new floor was like stepping into a moving stream of people, and we followed the current through an astounding number of booths. It was hard to even get to them all.
With more than 400 exhibitors, we walked for hours each day, trying to take in as much as possible. So, what did we see? COLORS, first and foremost. While each floor had a different slant, the show- as a whole- was one big color picture ablaze in our minds. There were nods to mid-century modern with warm ochre, orange, brown, and mustard yellow; the 1980s with jewel tones and pastels; and more.
Looking more closely at the products on display, we noticed that acoustics in the workplace were a prominent focus. One standout product we kept running into while exploring the show floors was “acoustic meeting pods.” These day-and-age-looking phone booths have paved the way for people in the workplace to easily escape the various noises and distractions that accompany a traditional office layout. People can work and conduct meetings in these soundproof pods, dens, or booths, making it a more comfortable, quiet, and less exposed environment for hard work. And our favorite part? The limitless variety of the pods’ design. We saw many different colors, sizes, shapes, and open and closed concepts – it was invigorating to see all that could be imagined. From felt domes to padded panels extending above work surfaces to hoteling boxes; it is clear that the pandemic continues to reshape the way we think about shared office spaces.
I could go on and on about the cool products we learned about, the people we met, and the speakers we listened to at NeoCon. Still, overall, the ultimate interior design show kept us on our toes, allowed us to view and interact with a dazzling array of products, and left us feeling delighted. Let the countdown to NeoCon 2023 begin!