Contributors: Jake Vail, Angelika Halama, Brian Perille, Gil Cavada, George Guffey, and Nick Cucci
In the wake of our design team's attendance at a NeoCon event that seemed to mark a definitive shift into the "post-pandemic" era, several salient observations came to the fore. Facemasks, once omnipresent, had receded, and acrylic panels no longer monopolized design narratives. A palpable transformation was evident in the ambiance of spaces, now characterized by a refreshing tranquility and an abundance of natural light. Following an era of remote work isolation and the avoidance of communal settings, emerging designs exhibited inviting hues, whimsical contours, and materials steeped in ecological mindfulness. The infusion of the outdoors into interior spaces persisted, underscoring the inexorable fusion of work and living domains within the burgeoning "hybrid" work culture. Within this context, a spectrum of pivotal insights crystallized our perspective:
Felt has consistently been a common presence at NeoCon, serving purposes such as sound dampening, providing visual texture, and aligning with environmental considerations. However, this year marked a notable departure as it was the first time we recall witnessing its usage as a structural component. Blended with additives and meticulously shaped, the felt underwent a transformation, adopting organic and distinctive forms that seamlessly integrated, rendering it a more integral and versatile facet within the realm of design.
Boucle made an appearance throughout NeoCon, showcasing its unique charm. Crafted through the looping and knotting of yarn, its textured allure contrasted the trend of recent years where brands leaned towards designs with a sanitized and effortlessly clean look. Boucle's presence injected personality into conventional styles while also imbuing a gentle touch into other designs, effectively softening their aesthetic tone.
materials: spray urethane coating
These spray covered and painted foam furniture and environmental pieces stood out this year. With a unique manufacturing method achieving an even more unique visual and feel. The bright colors and large-scale presence of these pieces cater to the “fun” and “uniqueness” vibes many are after in an Instagram culture and/or workplace.
While the NeoCon show has consistently prioritized eco-friendly messaging over the years, the current edition stands out as a turning point, showcasing an escalating presence of products crafted entirely from recycled materials. Notably, these products are designed with a circular approach, intended to be reused indefinitely. Among the noteworthy innovations, PET-based fabrics, mycelium-based flooring, and 100% recycled thermopolymers caught our attention, exemplifying the industry's proactive strides towards sustainable and regenerative practices.
This innovative system offered the flexibility to construct walls and adaptable spaces even in the absence of existing partitions. Boasting a captivating design characterized by generously curved corners and a prominently oversized single base wheel, it empowers users to fashion their preferred spatial dynamics while accommodating desired levels of privacy.
While the configuration drew our attention, we observed that the panels themselves presented a degree of unwieldiness during movement. Furthermore, upon closer inspection beyond the initial visual novelty, they revealed a resemblance to conventional freestanding rolling panels, diminishing their distinctiveness. It's worth noting that the system's applicability is constrained by the overhead grid system, thereby influencing its usage possibilities.
objects: nebulous and bulbous
We also noticed a pervasive shift towards seating designs that are progressively shedding their formal and traditional attributes. Instead, they are embracing a more relaxed and even nebulous form and structure. This evolution not only imbues these seating arrangements with a visually informal aesthetic but also suggests an intention to foster more relaxed and spontaneous conversations.
This departure from convention appears to be aimed at cultivating a casual ambiance, with the design itself serving as an invitation to engage in informal interactions.
objects: integrated power
Power access has rapidly transitioned into a prevailing standard within new office furniture designs, reflecting the growing need for constant power. Notably, certain companies are ingeniously devising methods to render power access more inconspicuous and understated, aligning with the evolving preference for subtlety and unobtrusiveness in workplace aesthetics.
You may need to pay attention where you place your beverages.
Among the standout trends we observed, there were notable instances where the design ethos confidently embraced transparency in showcasing the intricacies of production and celebrating manufacturing processes. In a landscape dominated by mass production, there's an inherent appeal in craftsmanship and the allure of artisanal creations.
These showcased objects boldly departed from the norm by proudly highlighting their construction methods instead of concealing them. This shift signifies a conscious move towards appreciating the artistry and artisanship behind each creation, aligning perfectly with the contemporary yearning for authenticity and genuine human touch.
behavioral: hover or perch seating
Our observations revealed a noticeable increase in spaces and seating arrangements deliberately tailored for short-term usage or brief intervals. These designs aren't crafted with the intention of providing prolonged comfort or supporting a full day's work. Instead, they cater to individuals seeking a momentary respite – a spot for a swift conversation, a brief coffee break, or a fleeting pause.
This emerging trend appears to acknowledge the prevailing fast-paced and on-the-go work culture, epitomizing the essence of flexible spaces. Moreover, it serves as a tangible manifestation of the growing informality that characterizes modern workplaces.
behavioral: hybrid spaces
Meeting spaces and rooms are working at improving the experience for those that may be in-person with those that are remote. Curved seating and integrated tracking cameras are some of the few features being incorporated in these objects and spaces.
behavioral: organized clutter
Understanding the reality of how people work, and the spaces they work in, these designs provide a “home” for all the things that can typically become “clutter” within a work space. By providing these landing spaces for a variety of objects, it can project an organized feel while still allowing access to our needed items, including power sources.
Colors often reflected one of two things: natural, soothing, muted tones or bright and bold saturated color.