CHICAGO, IL -- NeoCon, the leading voice of the commercial interiors industry, opens for its 54th edition at THE MART in Chicago June 12 to 14, 2023, offering tens of thousands of attendees an insider look into the driving forces behind design progress and what will shape our shared spaces next. Through future-forward programming and with hundreds of exhibitors, whose ahead-of-the-curve research and commitment to understanding the changing needs and demands of an ever-evolving world, the NeoCon show floors will offer an immersive display of what designers and specifiers should consider when creating a better built environment—from generational design, ESG prioritization, to technology integration and global perspectives.
Below are some of the most impactful trends shaping today’s offices, hotels, restaurants, retail, and healthcare facilities and a selection of product highlights from NeoCon 2023 exhibitors that underscore the impact of good design.
Designing Across Generations
With Gen Z projected to make up a third of the workforce by 2025 (Manpower Group, 2023 Workforce Trends Report), and older generations retiring later, designers, facility managers and other specifiers must cater to an expanding community with diverse needs and expectations. Human connection, well-being, and consistent comfort have emerged as priorities for both younger generations looking to establish smart habits and older generations seeking physical longevity as well as a vibrant and active career. As a result, there is a demand for spaces and products that offer opportunities to connect and collaborate while also allowing users to accommodate their personal wellness goals and feel more balanced.
Laura Leung, WELL AP and designer for IA Architects, predicts that intentionality and authenticity will be key factors in designing for the younger generations, especially in the office. “When the two concepts of intentionality and authenticity are applied to workplace design, the result is an environment that encourages meaningful collaboration, camaraderie and the organization’s key values, as well as the unique identities of its employees. The intentional workplace considers all aspects of the design—from layout to lighting to acoustics to ergonomics — ensuring, an enjoyable, memorable and healthy environment tuned to user needs and requirements. Intentionality and authenticity are catalysts for each other at the heart of an organization.”
Products from NeoCon exhibitors like the communal, adaptable Bay Lounge by Poltrona Frau, a Haworth (300) company, and La Duna, a semi-private banquette and lounge series by Martin Brattrud (347) lean into this by offering seating that prioritizes both the user’s personal comfort needs while allowing groups of all ages to gather with ease.
Gensler Chicago took these growing demands of wellness, community and comfort into consideration when designing the transformation of THE MART, which will be unveiled to guests at NeoCon 2023 for the first time. The new spaces – including a centralized amenity experience featuring a state-of-the art health club, an intimate tenant-exclusive speakeasy lounge, a 21,000 SF conference center and more – were designed to welcome an expanding workforce that prioritizes flexibility and balance. Revitalizations were also added to THE MART’s South Lobby and River Park, one of the few green spaces available to the public along the North side of the Chicago River.
“The new experience at THE MART was designed to bring people together, creating spaces that are magnets for engagement and connection,” said Todd Heiser, managing director at Gensler Chicago. “These lifestyle-driven elements are key in addressing the needs of the whole human. Enabling people to design the day that works for them – taking their lunch to the River Park, breaking a sweat at the fitness center, or bringing a client to the lounge for a drink – gives the sense of choice and flexibility workers now expect from their workplace experience.”
Studies also indicate that individual space is just as important to Gen Z as the community focus in the workplace. For these emerging generations, the desire for personal workstations and more privacy-driven products is on the rise (Work Better Magazine, 2023 Hybrid Realities). Many examples of this will be on display at NeoCon 2023.
Creating with a Conscience: Prioritizing ESG
Increased education and visibility around not only humanitarian issues in production but also the harmful environmental impact of many companies’ business practices, has led to an uptick in prioritizing ESG principles in what we build, purchase, and use. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)’s 2023 Trends Outlook notes that the public does notice and care when a company does not uphold environmental, social & governance principles and ideals. A recent survey showed that a majority of respondents would actually take actionable steps against a company they felt was disregarding ESG issues. Manufacturers that demonstrate a sense of social purpose and a commitment to good stewardship of the planet take center stage over those whose design and developmental practices avoid these important humanitarian tenets.
Ahead of NeoCon 2023, Wolf-Gordon and textile designer Dorothy Cosonas designed the Quiet Riot textile collection greatly considering both their social and carbon footprints and focused on keeping as much production as possible within the United States, with streamlined and efficient production methods.
Technology to Provide Solutions
As game-changing technologies emerge, companies across all verticals are leveraging these advancements to help improve their user experience, from customer satisfaction to employee engagement. The integration of emerging technologies within products has become increasingly crucial, addressing issues such as virtual fatigue, ergonomic optimization, hybrid workspaces, physical well-being, productivity and creativity stimulation and the creation of inclusive environments.
Gensler’s 2023 Design Forecast noted that recent and projected technological advances in product development can improve accessibility and equity. “Products conceived with meaningful consideration for dexterity, body fit and ADA compliance can significantly enhance workplace inclusivity. Touchless workstations, advanced display panels and other tech-enhanced products will help write the next chapter for equity in the workplace. Concepts that used to reside only in science fiction are now real tools unlocking equal access where it once was impossible.”
Globalization Brings Us Closer
Technology has also allowed the world to feel more connected, and as a result, brands and companies are taking a more global perspective. Trends and news can now reach a wider, more international audience, and companies can now hire talent from all over the world. Improvements in Web3 technology have allowed design firms like IA Architects, Spaceform and Decent Architecture, to build out virtual office extensions for workers to utilize around the globe and products are designed to reflect the changing demands of a more interconnected, digital age.
Brooke Horan, principal at HDR, recently listed globalization as an important trend for the future of work, “With our increased ability to connect virtually across so many time zones and countries, companies continue to become more global. To future-proof their organizations and stay competitive, they need to stay on top of new technologies that help create consistent, supported workflows across continents and multiple cities. They need to offer flexible environments conducive to constant change, uncertainty, and the more diverse nature of multinational business practices.”
NeoCon is open to trade, C-Suite executives, and other industry-related professionals and registration is free for all attendees.