The Future of Design Takes Shape at NeoCon 2024

The Future of Design Takes Shape at NeoCon 2024

The 55th edition of NeoCon, the world’s premier platform for commercial interior design, is set to take place from June 10-12. Around 50,000 attendees are expected to gather at THE MART in Chicago to explore the latest trends and innovations that are shaping the future of shared spaces. From fostering deeper connections and prioritizing sustainability to drawing insights from neuroscience, NeoCon exhibitors are leading the way with creative solutions for environments that are innovative, functional, enriching, and inclusive.

Key Themes Shaping Modern Spaces

Community & Co-Creation

The traditional "water cooler talk" has evolved, but the importance of community and casual interactions in the workplace remains vital. Designing environments that promote spontaneous connections, collaboration, and camaraderie is crucial for nurturing a positive company culture. Gensler’s Design Forecast for 2024 emphasizes the creation of human-centric workplaces that inspire purpose and demonstrate organizational values, helping firms stand out to potential talent and clients alike.

To enhance this sense of connection, designers are using spatial arrangements to create collaborative areas that complement private, focused workspaces. They are also providing more co-creation spaces equipped with tools and resources for brainstorming, experimentation, and innovation. According to Corgan, a leading architecture and design firm, 76% of surveyed participants feel more motivated working in a group or seeing others being productive. David Euscher, Vice President and Interiors Studio Leader at Corgan, notes the power of physically gathering in a place to work towards common goals and a shared purpose.

New products from NeoCon exhibitors, such as GRVT by Ghent, Collaborative Spaces by Global Furniture Group, and Sonrisa Lounge Furniture by KI, offer mobile, flexible solutions that transform collaborative environments instantly. Boss Design’s Mews, a modular workplace pod system, balances focus and collaboration, while Spacestor’s Portals Huddle allows for endless workplace reconfiguration. Haworth’s Collaborate collection supports meeting mobility, empowering users to excel regardless of their work style.

Colors & Emotions: The Rise of Neuroaesthetics

NeoCon exhibitors are blending form and function by leveraging neuroaesthetics, a field exploring how environmental elements like color, sound, and art impact individuals' brains, emotions, and spatial experiences. Neuroaesthetics goes beyond the traditional understanding that sights and sounds affect mood by harnessing these elements to promote well-being, productivity, and enrichment. Sally Augustin, PhD Fellow, American Psychological Association & Principal at Design With Science, highlights that neuroscience-informed design guides us to good choices.

Studies show that beautiful and functional design is crucial for happiness in the workplace. The Immersive Biophilic Garden by Garden on the Wall® and Egan Visual’s Sculpt Walls exemplify this, featuring indoor preserved gardens and 3D textured parallel lines that enhance sensory experiences. CECOCECO’s ArtMorph offers luminous wall panels combining lighting and display technology with captivating textures.

Research indicates that natural patterns and shapes are easier for the brain to process, as seen in Shaw Contract’s Arctic Escape collection, inspired by icy landscapes. Color studies suggest that warm colors, like Pantone’s Peach Fuzz, evoke joy, while cool colors promote calmness. ASID’s 2024 Trends Outlook notes a trend towards blue hues, reflecting a collective desire for clarity and increased intuition. Bernhardt’s Ice Collection includes striking cobalt blue tables, and Designtex’s Joy Collection uses vibrant colors and engaging textures to stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers, particularly in healthcare environments.

Inclusive Innovation: Designing for Equity & Wellbeing

Designing for equity and well-being means recognizing that there is no universal response to a space. People’s reactions vary based on numerous factors, including age, wellness, race, and personal experience. With approximately 15–20% of the world's population being neurodivergent, designing workplaces that cater to diverse needs has shifted from a preference to an expectation. Kay Sargent, Director of Workplace at HOK, emphasizes creating spaces that enable all individuals to find suitable levels of privacy, concentration, connection, and engagement.

As mental and physical health becomes a priority, workplace environments are evolving to include amenities like mother’s rooms, prayer and meditation spaces, and physical wellness areas. ASID’s 2024 Trends Report highlights that noise and lack of privacy are major barriers to effective work, prompting designers to provide opportunities for both open collaboration and private workspaces.

NeoCon exhibitors are at the forefront of inclusive innovation. Silen’s Bridges Mobile fosters sustainable, healthy workspaces, while pba’s TOCCO Collection addresses sensory sensitivity with ECONYL® nylon grips. Oyster Wellness offers ergonomic solutions to prevent lower back pain, and Armstrong Flooring’s MedinPure supports mental well-being with nature-inspired colors. Keilhauer’s Foryu chair automatically adjusts for different users, and DARRAN Furniture’s Liaison collection includes neurodiverse-friendly rocker models.

Sustainability: A Non-Negotiable

Sustainable design is now an essential expectation, with the built environment responsible for around 42% of global CO2 emissions. Companies are adopting eco-friendly materials and circular design practices to reduce their environmental impact. Haworth’s DesignLab focuses on circular design, emphasizing sustainability at every product lifecycle stage. Andreu World's Circular Design Challenge encourages industry professionals to adopt greener practices.

Biophilic design, which integrates natural elements to reduce stress and enhance creativity, is gaining traction. Solutions that blend wellness with sustainability are rising, promoting holistic health. NeoCon exhibitors like Ultrafabrics, Scandinavian Spaces, and Davis Furniture offer sustainable products made from recycled and bio-based materials. Slalom’s Bloom underscores acoustic wellness with bio-based materials, while C.F. Stinson’s Sea Change features textiles made from SEAQUAL® MARINE PLASTIC. Nienkamper’s Vox Tambour uses eco-materials like Eelgrass for excellent acoustic and thermal properties.

As we look to the future, the innovations showcased at NeoCon 2024 will continue to shape environments that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also supportive of our collective well-being and environmental sustainability.