The Future is Now: NeoCon 2015 Cultural Trends

Gretchen Wagner

There is a cultural shift taking place and it became largely apparent at NeoCon this year. More and more millennials are entering the work force, widening the generational gap in work environments and introducing fresh perspectives. It may depend on who you ask,but I’m looking at this through the eyes of a millennial and am filled with excitement and possibility. Renewed interest in the individual versus the collective is rising to the surface, inciting interesting conversations about how design can be a solution for the diverse work environment. There is no better time than now to talk about the future of the workplace.

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How can design provide solutions for the diverse work environment?

Haworth was a must see at the Merchandise Mart this year, and for those not in attendance, take a quick trip to their website for a capture of their space. The discussion was about balance in the work environment. Balancing work and play, color and texture, digital and tactile and the individual versus collaboration. Throughout their showroom you experienced beautiful, soft, pastel color palettes, a nod toward mid-century modern furniture design and engaging activities like the interactive projection mapped table at the front of their space. The focus shift from collective was demonstrated with independent workstations for both individuals and small groups. Patricia Urquiola designed the “Openest” product line, which was expanded upon this year, and clearly links her own design aesthetic with Haworth’s message of creating balance through design.

Steelcase is also assessing the work environment. As a global company they have interest in how this trend will reflect on a larger scale outside our local markets, and their research was mirrored in their product offering. In collaboration with Susan Cain, author of best selling novel Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, they have designed five unique “Quiet” spaces that offer variety in how people focus and are productive at work. Whether it is a solo private office with minimal distraction or a small collaborative space where individuals can come together to be inspired by one another, the options are there for the individual to choose.

Teknion is also engaging in the same conversation by offering the new “upStage” platform that challenges current workstations’ benching formats. It can easily be modified to reflect an individual’s particular needs, whether it is standing, lounging or being seated at work. The furniture system is designed to adapt in a moment’s notice to keep individuals feeling focused, inspired and energized.

And here at Interface we are echoing the same sentiments. Our continued research and understanding of biophilic design has shown us the many benefits of surrounding ourselves with nature, which has led to new product introductions that feature neutral, sophisticated designs following nature’s model. With the introduction of Human Spaces we have created a forum to discuss design solutions for the workplace. We have collaborated with anthropologists, architects, designers and sustainability experts to bring their research to one place with the intention of cultivating and designing spaces with the human in mind. Together we are understanding more and more that it is human nature to not only crave areas of refuge where we can detach from the physical and mental stress of work to recharge, but also areas filled with prospect, inspiration, color and collaboration.

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It’s human nature to crave areas filled with prospect, inspiration, color and collaboration.

We tend to look toward the future as a lofty idea further down the road. But today is the future of yesterday and we are already here. While each company has its own vision for how products will shape and redefine us, we all share one thing in common—by cultivating the individual and allowing them to thrive in their own way, we can create a more relaxed, inspiring and collaborative place to work. And I think we can all get down with that.

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A Net Effect Experience

Wilma Rendon

Wilma Rendon
Director of Business Development – JDJ Architects

We talked to Wilma Rendon, designer and director of business development for JDJ Architects in Chicago, to learn more about her experience using our Net Effect® Collection on a recent project. Net Effect was inspired by Net-Works®, the restorative business partnership between Interface, Aquafil, the Zoological Society of London and Philippine fishermen.

How did the Net-Works story help you engage your customer into the project?
The Net-Works story is compelling. It integrates a creative business approach, design and sustainability. One of our clients, Oasis Legal Finance, chose carpet tiles from the Net Effect Collection after hearing the engaging story. It’s pleasing to select a beautiful, high quality product that contributes to the well-being of so many.

How important is flooring when you’re designing a space?
Flooring is a key element of design. It can be utilized as way-finding, to differentiate work areas from lounge areas, to reinforce brand identity and much more. If we don’t consider flooring as an important element of design, we miss an opportunity.

It also has a great impact on the health of the office environment, affecting acoustics, maintenance, and the bottom line. We walk all day in our offices and the floor we select is important.

How do you feel the Net Effect Collection is affecting the well-being of the building occupants?
We believe that the materials and colors that surround us have an impact on our well-being and the way we experience a space. When selecting finishes we always ask: what emotion or feeling do we want the space to evoke? Is it energy, movement, excitement, tranquility? The answer is unique for every project.

Net Effect’s deep colors and rich pattern makes you notice the flooring, setting an organic, rich tone for the design. So we used Net Effect to set the tone in selected impact areas—the conference room and the reception area. We used the modular carpet as the foundation of the design palette and integrated complementary finishes and colors to create a strong environment that supports the Oasis Legal Finance brand. Our client and their staff are very pleased with the end result.

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Posted in Category Biomimicry, Biophilia, Design Inspirations | Leave a comment

Glitz, Glam and Gold

Sarah Pelham

Trend longevity has become unpredictable in our fast paced, high tech world. In fact the most marked change in trends over the years is the speed through which they cycle. For that we can thank advances in communication, production, transportation and the evolution of social media.

But even with these advancements, more often than not, our trends are still inspired by repeating history, the current overall mood of the world, and new consumer demands. Trends evoked from these factors tend to hang around a bit longer. For example, by allowing history to repeat, it gives us a basis to reflect, tweak and revisit past generations. If the mood of the world is in a recession, then it brings out insecurities which, in turn, trickle down into design in the form of safe choices, like a prevalence of neutral safe tones. Currently, the quick paced evolution of technology has consumers demanding “the latest & greatest” products with a keen awareness of their environmental impact.

So what trends did I find at HD Expo this year?

All that glitters is gold
At HD Expo 2015, all the glitz of Vegas shone bright! The hospitality color of the year was GOLD in an array of shades, leaving Marsala, Pantone’s color of the year, just a memory. While there were considerable pops of orange accents with warm grays, gold stole the show. Beaming gold metal finishes, fabrics, wall covering, furniture, lighting and accessories filled the exhibition hall. The mixture of warm gold tones and greens was a popular partner for an eclectic sense, while gold, black, grey and cream had a classic feel. Overall the mood of the color gold is one of success, achievement and triumph. It’s associated with abundance, prosperity, luxury, sophistication and elegance, indicating times are good in the world!

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Geometry abounds
Getting their fair share of the limelight were geometric shapes in a myriad of products. In conjunction with the classic mood found in the gold tones, classic shapes such as the Greek key, herringbone, octagon, hound’s-tooth and zigzag emerged both in true form and in abstract interpretations. Geometrics were on the floor, on the walls, in the furniture, in the fabrics and in the lighting forms. From the Greco-Roman use of simple zigzags and triangles to cover surfaces to the mid-century modern use of bigger, bolder shapes with less intricacy, geometric patterns have dominated for centuries. Today’s geometrics are bolder in scale than ancient Greek and Roman applications and have a more classic, sophisticated feel than the mid-century modern forms, giving the shapes a clean renewal with strong lines and simple colors.

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Enticing textures
Multi-level dimension was found throughout product offerings. Surfaces had depth, whether they were carved, layered, molded, twisted or tufted. You wanted to touch them and examine the texture. In most instances these products came from natural, flat materials that were manipulated into 3-dimensional surfaces, allowing designers to develop spaces that reflect our continuing desire to bring the outdoors inside. Surfaces possessed both the warmth and variation that we are attracted to in nature. Whether they were clay abstract sting-rays or solid pieces of oak charred and layered to create sculptural character, the textures created the connection with nature and the world around us.

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At the core
Looking a little deeper into nature and the awareness of our environment, manufacturers and designers continue to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Other hot topics included biophilic design and the use of alternative materials that change the way we design. RH Contract featured tables manufactured from reclaimed Douglas Fir while Phillips Collection showed the Seatbelt Chair made of scrap material. Innovations and products discussed included temperature sensitive glass, translucent concrete, electronic paper, magnetic ink, solar paint, wallpaper that charges your phone and transparent alumina that’s three times stronger than steel. The consumer demands on the market are supporting nature and sustainability as a hallmark of design as opposed to what many thought was just a trend 15 years ago. At Interface we continually break new ground on our mission to reduce or eliminate waste and harmful emissions while increasing the use of renewable materials and energy sources. As one of my Interface associates Lindsey James proclaimed, “Think like nature, because it’s her world.”

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Q&A with Kari Pei, Global Product Designer for Interface

Interface

Kari_Pei_2_blogWe recently welcomed Kari Pei, recognized design leader in the textile industry, as Interface’s new global product designer. She will work closely with our internal product design and development teams as well as sustainability leader David Oakey Designs.

Kari is equally at home in the design studio and on the factory floor. Her extensive resume includes work with globally celebrated fashion houses, manufacturers and hospitality brands such as Starwood Hotels, MGM Resorts International, Knoll, Wolf Gordon, Maharam and Jhane Barnes.

Her passion for sustainability coupled with her design expertise and insight made her the perfect choice for this new role. Even though she’s just settled in, she graciously answered some questions so that you can get to know her better. We can’t wait to see her work come to life on the floor!

1. Where are you finding your inspiration right now?
Currently, Interface’s focus on social sustainability is the genesis of my inspiration. The Net-Works program really brought gravity to our idea of social sustainability. But, in thinking about social sustainability, ideas about commonality among people begin to come to mind. I am struck by the simplicity and universality in textiles from around the world and from a large span of ages. The mark making and patterning from 10th century Korea to 19th century Central America have a common language. Therefore, people come together and seem much more similar than different. In a way, that is a kind of social sustainability we create by using a common dialogue through craft. Incorporating the suggestion of “craft” into design gives a reference to that common language, which I find very inspiring.

2. How does flooring set the tone for the design of a space?
Flooring establishes the hierarchy of the space. It can suggest area designation and delineation. It can soften, harden, calm or activate a space by the change in color, scale, texture and pattern. Flooring informs the use of a space; i.e., for task seating, wayfinding or socializing.

3. What three favorite trends are you seeing right now?
Painterly effects, varied, textured effects and biophilic-inspired patterns

4. What is your favorite place?
In my life, it is in the hammock of our family house in Katonah, NY, gently swinging while listening to the cacophony of sound made by the wind rustling through the leaves. In the world, it is anywhere I learn about culture.

5. What is your “must have” design tool?
Pencil and paper or Photoshop

6. What trends are you seeing in the hospitality industry?
The trend I see in hospitality is “uniqueness.” Every hotel wants each of their projects to be considered “unique” in its place in the world. They each have to offer something that is individualistic to that particular hotel so it is memorable and people return to it in order to experience it again.

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Can we identify “healthy” products? Three essential questions to ask manufacturers

Mikhail Davis

What’s hot in green building right now? No, global warming isn’t hot, despite growing alarm about extreme weather events. What’s hot is health. Specifically anything related to the potential health impacts of building products.

The rise of the WELL Building Standard and the addition of a day-long Materials and Human Health Summit to Greenbuild provide two data points supporting this overall trend. Despite growing interest and a host of new tools, the expansion of the health trend beyond simplistic building material “Red Lists”, and into more comprehensive, transparency-based material assessments, is still in its infancy. Many architecture and design firms aspire to do material health screenings, but lack the technical expertise or established processes to consistently add this element to their already-strained project budgets.

As a frequent speaker on this topic, including both Greenbuild Materials and Human Health Summits, I offer three questions that need to be considered as firms begin to engage manufacturers in an effort to identify “healthy” products.

What’s in your product?
This question forms the foundation for understanding what possible health issues a product might present when used in a building. Many new tools are being developed to help manufacturers disclose ingredients in a consistent way. But even the confusingly-named Health Product Declaration (HPD) format doesn’t actually tell you whether a product is healthy – it just tells you the ingredients. Many of the tools like HPD aspire to become as standardized and broadly used as the Nutrition Facts Label we find on packaged foods, but the fact that a box of cookies discloses their Nutrition Facts does not make them healthy. It does, however, allow for more informed choices about what you buy, which is the true value of standardizing transparency.

What comes out of your product?
This is an important question because many building product ingredients, if you gargled with them every day, would seriously damage your health. Yet the vast majority of these ingredients are used in such a way that there is no foreseeable way for a user to be exposed to them. This is the big difference between ingredients in a building product and ingredients on a Nutrition Facts Label; for a Nutrition Fact Label, exposure is a given (or what’s the point?).

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The big difference between ingredients in a building product and ingredients on a Nutrition Facts Label? On a Nutrition Fact Label, exposure is a given.

The question of likelihood of exposure to ingredients in plastics and other building materials is fraught with technical questions that live in the complex world of toxicology and risk assessment, so I would like to offer a common-sense alternative:  focus your analysis on materials that (1) release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) or (2) receive heavy wear and abrasion during use.

VOCs, by nature, are emitted from the product, so some level of exposure is guaranteed. Anything you smell is releasing VOCs into your nose, ranging from the wholesome and harmless (fresh baked bread) to the carcinogenic (formaldehyde). Fortunately, green building standards, with help from the California Department of Public Health, have now standardized tests for the most worrisome common VOCs released from interiors products. Numerous industry standards (e.g., Green Label Plus for carpet, FloorScore for hard surface) are harmonized to the strict California standards (CA 01350), so finding low-offgassing products has become as easy as looking for the right certification.

The second category, chemicals used in high-touch surfaces, becomes more complex because exposure only occurs over time and only under the right conditions, usually when repeated washing and abrasion of surfaces causes ingredients to migrate out and end up in dust. The most famous recent example of this is highly toxic and persistent flame-retardants migrating out of furniture and electronics over time. While some potentially hazardous chemicals break down quickly outside the product, usually broken down by microbes, others are highly persistent (no critter yet seems to have acquired a taste for polybrominated flame retardants) and accumulate in the environment over time.

In carpet, the high-touch surface is the face fiber, usually nylon, which is often coated with a stain and soil resistant chemistry based on perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). Due to the toxicity of some members of this chemical family and the persistence in the environment of all PFCs, they were recently added to the Living Building Challenge Red List. Increasingly, premium brands of carpet yarn are moving to integrally stain resistant nylon that requires no coatings that can wear off over time. Interface Americas received an award from Environmental Building News in 2011 for producing the first PFC-free carpet tile platforms and is PFC-free in all products.

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Interface Americas is PFC-free in all products.

How is your product made?
Finally, health impacts that might affect the end users of a product are but a small piece of the healthy product puzzle. Many of the worst health impacts associated with the life cycle of a product happen far from the comparative tranquility of a school or office environment. Exposure occurs in the mines, oil and gas drilling operations, chemical refineries and plastic factories that supply the raw materials that ultimately make up the products we manufacture. Plastic products traditionally come from chemicals derived from oil, gas, and coal as well as from mined mineral fillers. The air and water pollution associated with resource extraction and refining are typically thought of as environmental impacts, but for the people who live and work nearby, they are definitely health issues. Is a Red List Free product still a “healthy” product if its ingredients come from natural gas fracking that left the local water supply tainted by heavy metals and petrochemicals?

At Interface, we see increasing recycled content and end-of-life recycling as the only viable solution to the many systemic pollution issues associated with the lifecycle of products made from oil, gas, and mineral resources. When a product comes from 80% recycled content, it allows us to know we’re doing our part to address the effect industrial operations have on their surrounding communities.

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When a product comes from 80% recycled content, like our Net Effect™ Collection, we know we’re doing our part to address the effect industrial operations have on their surrounding communities.

Staying out of the fear trap
The way most of the discussion of healthy buildings is going, we are quite focused on eliminating the negative impacts building products might have on our health. But we also know that becoming chronically stressed, in this case about all the toxic chemicals in the world, is not good for your health. The challenge is to find your own “Goldilocks” level of worrying that keeps you motivated to change our industrial system without living in constant fear.

I find that it helps to spend equal time on the positive side of the health equation, investigating all the ways interiors products can be designed to help enhance building occupants’ well-being, boost their productivity, and ameliorate their stress levels. So when thinking about toxic chemicals has you down, I recommend picking up Terrapin Bright Green’s new report “The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design,” and pondering all the ways interior products and designs could help people feel as healthy and productive as when they are outdoors. Because after all, designing products that won’t expose you to toxic chemicals is truly only the beginning of the exciting work of designing spaces conducive to health and happiness.

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