This was my second trip to the NeoCon event in Chicago in as many years and it felt different this time around. I drove down to the show from Holland, Michigan with a few OMT-Veyhl interns, which was an event all its own – interesting people with different perspectives for sure! We discussed D&D, the bleeding edges of art and music, stupid human tricks, religion, and automobiles. I guess that’s what happens on a long drive on a rainy day with ample time to pass. Last year I spent most of my time with some gentlemen from purchasing. Our discussions on this day were very different and better in some ways.

I would like to share that if you go to NeoCon, I recommend that you start on the top floors and work your way down. Someone suggested this last year as a great way to see everything in the shortest amount of time, and compared to last year, I would have to agree.

Also, the stairs are your friend at NeoCon. I don’t enjoy standing in lines, and waiting for the elevators guarantees time wasted. We were easily able to see everything by 1:30 in the afternoon then grabbed some refreshments and took in some local color before driving back to Michigan.

I took a few pictures of the show’s highlights, but honestly, not much really stood out for me this year. A graphic artist colleague noted that there was a lack of color compared to years past, which seemed right in line with what we saw. I have read in the trade literature that the hot colors would be blue and purple this year but saw very little of either.

On the top floors, we saw many textile merchants showing prints and patterns in a great variety of textures and materials. There were also several sound-deadening booths and office enclosures of different shapes and construction.

As a computer-builder and sometime-gamer, I was excited to see a few gaming-centric products and tables at the show. They were a little garish for my taste, but I think it is a worthwhile market segment to get into and one not yet exploited by OEMs. With the surging interest and money in e-sports, I think it is a segment worth looking at by sales and marketing. E-sports are big business now (hundreds of millions of dollars).

Beyond the usual office chairs, there were also a few weird seating offerings that reminded me of the sushi and sashimi plate I had eaten a few days earlier (hard to describe, but if you saw them you know what I am talking about). Interesting, but I can’t figure out who the target customers would be.

On the topic of office furniture in general, I noticed that the trend of blurring the lines between office and home environments continues. There were more muted or neutral colors; browns and shades of black and less office or industrial-looking tables and seating.

To my surprise, I saw less steel and more wood at the forefront of the exhibits. There were very few chrome steel bases and only a handful with visible polished aluminum components – much fewer compared to years past. Wood is king right now, even sporting built-in charging and connectivity options for cell phones and computers.

A favorite for me was a large cantilever conference table shown by Enwork. It was bolted to the floor and had a robust but hidden frame under the top. It was stylish, impressive, seemingly simple and timeless. I would love to see something similar but without the need to be bolted down for stability, or else that was made in a way that minimizes the appearance of the base.

However, the absolute highlight for me was our very own height adjustable Omnia mobile bench. I think it is a real answer to many issues and concerns of today’s business, office and hospitality customers. It has height adjustability, it’s mobile, it has excellent wire management, includes monitor attachments, has room to install a pc inside, comes with a modesty solution and is easily stored with its downward folding top mechanisms. It was by far the most innovative product at this year’s show (you can learn more about it here).

For making the boldest of statements I would have to choose the sushi and sashimi seating, but for the best product, it’s our Omnia for sure!

In closing, I have heard that NeoCon has been shifting from what it once was (though there will always be a place for strictly office furnishings). The fusion of office and home products could affect the way we showcase and market in the future, as well as who we sell to. We can make it easier to add cabinetry and wood surrounds and we will have to find additional ways to become more home-friendly.

It will be interesting how we manage this going forward as we figure out how to best engage the changing market. And who knows, maybe we’ll see you there next year? Likely, we’ll be waiting in a line.

Robert Diamond