Neocon 2012 Chicago – US Office Furniture Exhibition Report for the UK

Neocon is the largest office furniture and office product exhibition in the world. Whereas we have Orgatec in Europe, the US has Neocon 2012. It’s always interesting to see the latest office furniture products from the other side of the pond, any great ideas are sure to make their way over here, all the international firms with a presence in America or looking to break into the US, are represented. With most of the largest manufacturers in the world headquartered in the US (such as Steelcase, Herman Miller, Knoll, Humanscale, etc…) and also the most technologically advanced companies living alongside them (Apple, Twitter, Facebook etc…). It’s bound to be a fascinating tour. We’ll try  to keep to companies you know, keeping it relevant for the UK, and try to pick out some fantastic or interesting innovations.

One thing that will amuse Europeans is the chat around collaborative working, particularly “the move” towards more open plan working, freestanding solutions and the “re-invention” of the humble sofa into an interactive work space. This is actually old news for us. Dilbert was working in cubicles until only recently and the cultural shift in the US to a truly open plan environment (by open plan, we mean actually being able to see everyone from your workstation, not be in a silo without walls that touch the ceiling) has been a slow evolution.  Nonetheless the Americans seem to think they invented open plan – a bit like the internet. Having said that, once the Americans embrace an idea, you had better be ready for some serious innovation. They may not always be the first movers, but after the dust settles, they still tend be the best. We saw a lot of products, but we’ll stick with something we genuinely think breaks new ground or is relevant to our markets:

If you’re not interested in all the cool interesting stuff and just want to have a laugh! Scroll to the bottom of the post and see the outtakes! First off, in no particular order, OFS has taken the humble meeting table and executive workstation and integrated technology in a new way. Keeping the tops of the tables free, they are placing power in innovative places (like the frame rather than the top), and even turning a table top itself into a speakerphone.

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This is great design. Auditorium and stadium seating from Sedia systems. Called Jumpseat. Simple design, less is more. Works perfectly and we like!

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Allermuir, or Senator is known in the states, is waving the flags for the brits and here is the designer, Jonathan Prestwich talking through the design of the new Mayze chair. Not exactly ground breaking but Senator and Allermuir are very good at taking other people’s innovations and making products a little bit better and a little bit cheaper. Not to be under-estimated.

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Steelcase hits the nail on the head with real insight. By embracing technology and telepresence they really are able to save the planet and transform the way we work. Video conferencing looks to be coming of age at last and Steelcase look to be embracing this area at the point of take off.

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 Camira fabircs have come up with great new finishes, here Paul Bennotti, Ian Burn & Simon Whittaker discuss Camira Fabrics’ most sustainable product to date, Hemp, a gorgeous wool-hemp blend.

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This is unusual and genuinely innovative space-saving sofa from Wieland Healthcare with mobile unit for laptop work, relaxing, reclining, and even sleeping in a small space. A perfect healthcare or hospital healthcare idea, with some ideas that might make there way into the office. (We’re still waiting for the low coffee table to spring up to laptop height)

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 …and here are the Neocon 2012 outtakes – enjoy!

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