This past June my friend, Meghan O’Malley, and I were awarded scholarships to attend NeoCon in Chicago. It was an amazing opportunity made possible by the successful efforts of the fundraising committee and the entire ASID Student Chapter Board at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C. The scholarship covered the cost of the airfare and hotel stay. Meghan and I enjoyed the comfort of the Acme Hotel, a boutique hotel with a vintage, industrial, mechanic vibe on Ohio Street in downtown Chicago.
NeoCon is so many things! It is like the ocean, a never-ending sea of information and eye-candy! It is dense with inspiration. It asks questions and gives answers. It encapsulates the excitement designers feel when excellent design is achieved. For me and for Meghan, NeoCon primarily represents four things:
1. NeoCon is overwhelming (in a good way!). Meghan and I were exhausted by the days’ end — our eyes and minds as tired as our feet. Not only is NeoCon a huge exhibition, it also is a feast for the creative appetite. Each exhibitor set up displays and presentations that were expertly executed. Meghan and I marveled at the perfect composition and styling of each showcase.
2. NeoCon is about the new. Each exhibitor worked hard to impress the visitors with new products, new colors, new combinations, new concepts, new perspectives and new methods. Meghan and I noticed that one of the main themes of “newness” was flexibility. Many furniture companies presented lines of modular pieces and mix-and-match components. Another “new” theme was casualness. Work, home and public spaces were less compartmentalized and more open. Single spaces and single pieces of furniture supported multiple functions such as “work + meet + play.” We kept hearing buzzwords connected to the new trends: adaptable, mobile and collaborative.
3. NeoCon is about visual trends. Among the thousands of products presented, Meghan and I noticed similarities, especially within the commercial furniture sector. Felt was BIG! So was gray. Gray felt was the bomb! Juxtaposing this trend were pops of color, especially reds, pinks and oranges. Other aesthetic trends included vintage, natural, artsy and hand-made.
4. NeoCon is a place to express values. Both Interface and 3Form (among many others) presented their products through the lens of their sense of responsibility to carefully manage human and natural resources. 3Form’s Ensign Division produces the “Full Circle” project where artisans in Senegal produce textiles for 3Form products and, in return, 3Form helps their community by modernizing it with solar power, irrigation and education about sustainable farming methods. Interface developed a program that buys discarded fishing nets, providing extra income and cleaner beaches to some of the poorest fishing communities in the world. Through its newest collection, Net Effect, Interface continues to be a pioneer of responsible and value-driven practices in the design industry.
Attending NeoCon is a rite of passage for many designers. For me it was a milestone that helped me make the transition from interior design student to design professional. With my thesis and most of my coursework behind me, I went to NeoCon hoping for inspiration to guide my career-building path. In fact, I was overwhelmed with inspiration and an abundance of information about the trends and innovations in interior design. I am proud of my ASID student chapter for creating and executing such a valuable and exciting benefit.
Molly A. Kunselman recently graduated from the Corcoran College of Art + Design with a Masters in Interior Design.