• Ash Agustin

I came. I experienced. I learned. NeoCon at 50.

NeoCon 2018 came and went but as a first timer in North America's largest commercial interior design tradeshow, it left a lasting impression in me. NeoCon is held every June at The Mart in Chicago. This year marked its 50th anniversary.

The Merchandise Mart. (Photo from http://www.neocon.com/about/show-info)

To be honest, I was overwhelmed but at the same time, energized to be surrounded by so much design inspiration. It is like a hub of innovation and creativity. Here are the trends that I have seen across nearly a million of square feet of exhibition space that will drive the future of commercial interior design:

Technology is Trending

I have witnessed a lot of technological innovations aimed to suit the needs of this modern day work flow. From adding power to every single furniture piece to be able to stay connected through our smart devices to how we present our designs to our clients.

One example on how designs are being presented is through the VR (Virtual Reality) and the AR (Augmented Reality). Both of these are booming trends in the A&D (Architecture and Design) community right now. This means that architects, designers and clients are able to place 3D model of furniture products in a real room, make changes on the fly and in real time. The user of a VR/AR app will be able to walk around the full-size scale virtual model of a space or a product and will also be able to see these from every angle and position to get a better understanding.


Polished concrete flooring, hard surface finishes and exposed duct work and beams have become so popular in the last 5 years. Sound-absorbing materials have become very high in demand because of these. There were lots of cool ceiling treatments, wall panels, divider systems and sound booths.

Well-being and Happiness

Engagement is a key driver of performance and productivity. Employees' well-being and happiness correlate to better work environments and a more successful organization.

One way to promote well-being at the workplace is to bring a sense of outdoors in the interiors. Incorporating live plants and natural materials help relieve stress.

Another way is to encourage different postures by providing ergonomically-designed task chairs, height-adjustable desks, spaces to perch for a few minutes, or lounge areas. Encouraging movement throughout the day is essential.

Promoting Collaboration

Generation Y (Millennial) and Generation Z (Centennials) are slowly taking over the workforce. These modern day workers no longer want to remain in isolated cubicles with tall panels. As a response to this, the spaces are being designed toward a more collaborative approach, thus, creating a more open workspace. This layout not only increases interaction and promotes constant communication but also faster knowledge transfer.

Overall, NeoCon provided me with an opportunity to rejuvenate my creativity, skills and focus on the fun parts of interior design that I love so much. Given the chance, I will definitely come back.