This time of year, r.o.i. Design would normally be bringing you news from our annual trip to NeoCon in Chicago. Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, NeoCon had to be canceled. The yearly commercial design show held at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago is our chance to get out to see, touch, and experience the latest and greatest products from manufacturers of office furniture, flooring, fabrics, and wallcoverings.
Understanding that the design community would be deeply disappointed, the organizers and exhibitors of NeoCon put together a virtual exhibit this year, called “NeoConnect”. This series of online resources, programming, and events normally at NeoCon, aims to virtually connect the design community through the Fall of 2020. This allows those who would normally attend NeoCon to get information about the new product offerings, attend virtual educational seminars, and connect with others in the NeoCon community.
The developers of this site have done a good job to make looking up exhibitors and their products easy. Users can search by company, keyword, or category, or you can browse a list of exhibitors sorted alphabetically. Additionally, floor plans of the Merchandise Mart with exhibitors’ showroom locations are available to explore. Each showroom has its own link to additional company and product info.
One of the biggest design trends coming out of NeoCon this year is obviously making spaces safe. With the threat of this virus and whatever else may come, feeling safe in the workplace is a number one priority. What may have been popular before for space planning, fabrics, and finish options may now be deemed unsafe in the age of COVID-19. Open offices or benching configurations are now impractical without allowing for six feet of distance between people. Screens and plexiglass barriers will now figure prominently in space planning. Upholstery, wallcoverings, and worksurfaces now need to be able to be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.
Other industry trends identified at NeoCon this year include designing with a system mindset, creating spaces of inclusivity and gender-neutral design, investments in sustainable products, and preparation and risk assessment.