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.

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Environments that balance digital with tactile, energy with serenity, and work with play create inviting spaces that draw people in. Photo and caption courtesy of Haworth.

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People desire the freedom to move throughout the day, gravitating toward the places that help them perform their best. Photo and caption courtesy of Haworth.

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.

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Susan Cain Quiet Spaces. Photo courtesy of Steelcase.

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.

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upStage from Teknion. Photo courtesy of Teknion.

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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