NeoCON 2019 is in the books, and it was another great one.

highlights from the mart

Steelcase had another strong year at NeoCON, choosing to focus on supporting dynamic teamwork through the launch of its new NeoCON Gold Award Winning line, Flex.  The Flex Collection consists of a range of highly flexible elements, including desks, tables, screens, whiteboards, and storage carts.  This cool new collection was highlighted in both the Steelcase WorkLife Center as well as the WorkCafe.  The Steelcase Flex Mobile Power product stood out to me as being especially innovative and useful, in a wide range of applications.  Each Flex Mobile Power unit can supply an all-day power source for three laptops.  This is a game-changer for clients who want to activate informal collaborative areas in their existing environments.

Down the hall from the Steelcase WorkLife Center was the perpetual party called the WorkCafe.  The most notable introductions there include the new co-developed West Elm Work Collection.   This year, Steelcase introduced a desking and benching system called Greenpoint, and two new lounge systems called Belle and Boardwalk.  Belle was a designer favorite with it’s luxe appearance.  I expect that this collection will be very well-received in Virginia!

Outside of the Steelcase family, a few companies really stood out from the pack.  Of those companies, Watson Furniture gets my A+ for a beautifully designed collection called Cloud9.  This collection has two very unique product features not previously seen in the market.  First, the flexible connections in Cloud9’s power system enable very organic planning, breaking out of the cube-farm mold completely.  But the second key feature is my personal favorite:  a sleek height-adjustable desk with four slim post legs.  There’s nothing else with this look and level of sophistication in the market.

Another amazing manufacturer that we spend time with was 3form.  Well known for acrylic resin and glass architectural products, 3form has diversified it’s collection to include a wide range of pret-a-porter products that enhance space division, acoustic comfort, and brand identity.  Of the wide range of options shown, our favorite is the ILUTO system, which featured customized graphics from the Chicago L.  I’m very excited that Creative is 3form’s preferred partner in our market – together, we’ll do amazing things.

Nucraft has launched many beautiful products for meeting and training spaces in past years.  This year was no exception.  They took Neocon Gold for their new Epono collection.  This table series is deceptively simple, with clean parsons-style legs.  But looking a little deeper, those legs are designed to hide ugly power and data cables.

The OFS showroom was completely overhauled this year, and had so many cool new products, it was hard to catalog them all.   The most noteworthy launch was a product called Obeya, another NeoCON Gold recipient.  This wood post-and-beam system can be configured in an infinite number of ways to create small- and medium-sized spaces for collaboration, respite, and focus.  I liked the upscale appearance that the veneer lends to this product, and could see it doing well in our market.

Of course, Creative’s team saw many other new and interesting things – too many to catalog here.  But in general terms, the show was well-attended and there was continued positive energy and enthusiasm for the health of the industry.   There is a shift underway, with Knoll exiting The Mart this year, and Herman Miller expected to do so next year.  It’s too soon to tell what the impact of this will be on this bell-weather event; hopefully it won’t dampen enthusiasm in the coming years.

extracurricular activities

Outside of The Mart, the weather was beautiful, and Chicago was abuzz about the Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit of its native son, Virgil Abloh.  For the uninitiated, Abloh is the artistic director for the menswear collection of Louis Vuitton and the CEO of his own fashion label, Off-White.  Coinciding with the launch of that exhibit, Louis Vuitton unveiled an Abloh-designed pop-up, featuring fashion products in the designer’s fearless and expressive style.

Just down from The Mart, we enjoyed Firecakes Donuts.  This small shop had donuts with huge flavor – like Valrhona Choclate Iced and Wildflower Honey Glazed.  Do yourself a favor: if you’re ever in the Chicago area, make a stop.  You won’t regret it.

Ryan Mayton | Creative Strategist