NeoCon Wrap-Up: Living it up in Chi-Town

By all accounts, the 39th annual NeoCon® World's Trade Fair was the biggest and best in years-a sign that suggests the market is in good shape.


What was the highlight of NeoCon this past June? What trends did you notice as you walked through the showrooms at The Merchandise Mart?

These are just a couple of the questions we asked you, our readers, in a recent poll featured in Design Flash, (the weekly e-newsletter of Interiors & Sources), for a post-NeoCon recap. By and large, designers felt that it was indeed one of the best NeoCon shows to date, and the number of manufacturers who staged events or showroom parties seemed to indicate that the industry has fully bounced back from recent years. As one respondent put it, "It appears as if everyone is saying, ‘We're going to be OK,' and ‘Let's celebrate a little.'"

If attendance is any indicator of success, then NeoCon has never been better. This year, more than 52,000 people witnessed the newest products and materials being introduced by more than 1,200 exhibitors-making it the most attended NeoCon to date. Known as the launching pad for new products in the commercial furnishings industry, this year the Best of NeoCon entries were at an all-time high with 420 products submitted.

In terms of trends, we are happy to report that respondents to our survey said "green" products were everywhere. Indeed, every show floor seemed to be brimming with manufacturers touting the sustainable qualities of their products. One survey respondent suggested that the "green effort" was so prominent that it was almost overwhelming. Another suggested that sustainability no longer seems to be considered "nice to have" but is becoming more of an industry requirement. Yet another respondent noted that "the difficulty was in finding products that were truly green and for the right reasons."

While the proliferation of green products on the market is encouraging, navigating through the sea of green products is no easy task, which is partly why our Green Guide to NeoCon was so well received by attendees. Providing designers with a roadmap for sustainable product evaluation and selection, the Green Guide is a tool that designers can use to find reliable, transparent information on how green product certifications work and how products certified by each system stack up comparatively. (If you did not pick up a copy of the guide, visit the Green Guide to NeoCon online)

Other trends the editorial department noticed-confirmed by the responses to our reader poll-were design cues taken from nature. In contrast to last year, however, the interpretations of nature-inspired patterns were more organic and abstract than literal. Also, clean, simple lines with natural materials seemed to emerge in a number of furniture offerings from desks to conference tables to credenzas. Work surfaces in white were also popular according to the survey results.

The show also featured an outstanding group of industry experts, thought leaders, and innovators to provide insight into different areas of interest and to keep attendees on the cutting edge of their respective industries. The impressive line-up of informative and educational seminars was well attended, with seminar pre-registration up 46 percent from 2006. Attendees were able to choose from 123 CEU seminars and association forums, three keynote speakers, three luncheons and two panels. Speakers included Zaha Hadid, renowned architect and 2004 Pritzker Prize Winner; Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO; Nadja Swarovski, vice president, international communications, Swarovski; and Barbara Barry.

Brian Walker, president and CEO of Herman Miller, summed it up best in a news release when he said, "NeoCon
provides a window into the soul of our industry. There are many beautiful objects and a long list of interesting product launches each year, but the enduring appeal and lasting value is in those designs and solutions that make
a meaningful difference for people and their environments."

In case you missed our NeoCon Product Preview in the June issue of Interiors & Sources, you can view several other product offerings that caught our attention at the show.

Looking ahead, the NeoCon World's Trade Fair in 2008 will be held June 9-11 at The Merchandise Mart. For more information, visit or call 800-677-6278 (MART).