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NeoCon 2022 Proved that Brands (and Architects) Just Want to Have Fun

The A+Product Awards is open for entries, with a Main Entry Deadline of June 24th. Get started on your submission today! 

After several years of pandemic-related disruption, NeoCon was back for its usual June edition at Chicago’s massive theMART (formerly Merchandise Mart). In addition to a spectacular array of new, cutting-edge materials and recently unveiled products, the buzzing atmosphere — palpable on all levels of the hulking building — was undeniable. Hallways were filled with lingering groups, and the showrooms resounding with indistinct chatter (in the mornings, over coffee; in the evenings, over drinks), as thousands of manufacturers, dealers, architects and designers and media gathered for the 53rd iteration of the event. Summing up the three-day experience in just two words is surprisingly easy: simply put, it felt like a community reunion.

Again and again, the rich discussions taking place, coupled with the impressive and strong displays put on by the various brands, proved the the value of these types of in-person events. (This year, an estimated 40,000 design professionals and more than 400 leading companies assembled in the Windy City.) For this reason, the looming question posed by attendees and brands alike was almost paradoxical: what will happen with return-to-the-office? Is the onus on architects to visualize and design office spaces that will lure employees back? Will residential and office building typologies, and the items they are furnished with, continue to elide as hybrid spaces?

Photo by Hannah Feniak

Most brands seemingly anticipated such questions with a slew of products that were designed to maximize flexibility. Meanwhile, several other recurring themes cropped up: sustainability, of course, was a constant presence in most showrooms, while vibrant earth tones and saturated pastels also played starring roles. In addition, brands played with the dichotomy between contemporary design with subtle throw-back aesthetics. Many furniture designers opted for rounded edges and for fabrics or structures that could seamlessly transition from indoors to outdoors .

This year, Architizer opted to shake up their coverage of the event. Rather than having journalists reflect on the show, we wanted to hear from practicing architects and designers about which brands and objects stood out to them and which rising trends they spotted. It was #NeoConByArchitects #ForArchitects. Throughout the event, we were delighted to share live coverage shot through the cellphones of Daniel Stromberg, a product designer for Gensler in Los Angeles and Carl Boucher, of NEUF Architect(e)s in Montreal. Chicago’s own Patricia Rotondo of Antunovich Associates made memorable cameo appearances!

Daniel brought a deep knowledge of the product market, drawing our attention to pieces with aggressive price points, modular approaches (offering fun options for designers to play with) and stellar sustainability specs. Click on the right hand arrow in the above graphic to seem more of his selections!

Reflecting on his three days in Chicago, Daniel said: “Neocon 2022 was fantastic! We definitely saw some threads weaving between manufacturers this year, some of which were harbingers of things to come no doubt. One of the things I was happiest to see was the number of manufacturers taking real steps forward with their sustainability obligations. This is something that I am confident will become the driving factor in designer specifications in the coming years. Another trend was colors — manufacturers fully embracing colorways that have an earthy feel to them. Lastly, it is interesting to see the contract market slowly follow the residential market with a move towards maximalism.

More than anything, Neocon 2022 was confirmation that no matter much digital launch events and meetings may have evolved over the last 2 years, there is no substitute to being together and experiencing products in person. Looking forward to Neocon 2023!”

Meanwhile, Carl’s jovial personality was reflected in his taste for bold graphics, whimsical details and playful pieces, which you can see by flipping through some of the images in the embedded Instagram post, above.

Of his experience at the event, he said: “This being the first big social event post pandemic for most of us, I feel as though the overall energy level and enthusiasm of attendees was unmatched. The products and designs were presented in thoughtfully crafted showrooms to best suit each company’s vision. Although each showroom was unique, I noticed a reoccurring effort in companies using design as a solution and incentive to bring people back to the office. Aesthetically, the work presented at NeoCon reaffirmed a clear movement towards rounded lines and patterns with earthy and moody tones. All in all, NeoCon was a great experience and hopefully I get to do it all over next year!!”

We already have the 2023 dates for NeoCon in our calendars — be sure to keep the event on your radar. Did you miss out this time around? Be sure to check out our Instagram Highlights Reel for full coverage of the event — including more architect’s picks, an interview with Patricia Urquiola and more.

The A+Product Awards is open for entries, with a Main Entry Deadline of June 24th. Get started on your submission today! 

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