Here’s what went down:

Neocon was finally back in full swing this year, bringing together architects, designers, manufacturers, and industry leaders from around the globe to explore the latest trends and innovations in commercial design. It was awesome to catch up old friends, colleagues, and collaborators.

Let’s get into some of the highlights:

1. Sustainability Takes Center Stage:

This year had more emphasis on sustainability and environmentally conscious design. Tons of manufacturers showcased a range of eco-friendly products, made from recycled and up-cycled materials.

While companies are making progress, it’s a difficult challenge. Most showcase products we found use recycled plastics, so the eco-friendly proclamations are difficult to assess but in the right direction. We’d like to see more focus on circular economy principles, and a focus on natural materials in workplace design. More on this later…

2. Flexible, Comfortable Workspaces and Remote Collaboration:

The changes since COVID were obvious everywhere you looked. Flexible workspace elements were pervasive, with lots of soft seating and warm colors. You could see the shift in office design from an efficient workplace where people have to go, into welcoming spaces where people want to go to spend their days.

There was also was a greater emphasis on tech & videoconferencing spaces, designed to accommodate hybrid work models and promote collaboration among remote teams. Super important to control noise in these rooms, and designers are taking notice.

3. Wellness in the Workplace:

Employees’ mental & physical health has become a big focus for companies trying to provide better working environments. We saw many products and concepts aimed at enhancing wellness, such as ergonomic furniture, adjustable standing desks, sound-absorbing acoustic materials, and biophilic design elements.

Our Favorites:

There were so many great things to see this year but we narrowed it down to five;

1. PEEL Chair prototype:

The first ever compostable chair! It’s made from corn-derived PLA and hemp fibers and yet it’s strong enough to sit on. This material combo has a lot of potential. Learn more about it here.

2. Ornamented Hand-Blown Glass Wall:

We ran into old friends at Wyzendale party and met some glass making folks that created a beautifully ornamented wall and some incredible creations not pictured. Inspiring to see real art at a conference that sometimes gets overwhelmed by monotonous commercial products.

3. Art on the Mart:

On our walk from Fulton Design Days to the loop we were surprised by an amazing light show on the Merchandise Mart! Hands-down the most impressive projection mapping display I’ve seen. Kudos to the team at Gensler Chicago for the design.

4. Textile Softwalls:

Molo created these textile softwalls that were so fun to play with. It’s incredible to see the progress of this team after seeing them for the first time at Orgatec 2014 in Germany:

5. Impact Acoustic & Archisonic Cotton:

Of course we have to give a shoutout to the main show we were a part of, Impact Acoustic! They created an incredible futuristic setup to feature sustainability and demonstrate acoustic performance with immersive installations inside shipping containers.

Undeterred by heavy rain on Tuesday, the Impact Acoustic party went on for 3 days to celebrate the announcement of the newest product: Archisonic Cotton.

While Impact Acoustic is leading the way in sustainable PET felt, there is still much to be desired for a higher standard of sustainable materials. Starting from a blank slate, they developed a new acoustic product made of all natural materials: waste cotton from the fashion industry, natural earth pigments, clay, salts, and water. These are combined in a way that can be fully recycled with low energy consumption and without loss of quality, to create brand new Archisonic Cotton panels.

Reach out to [email protected] to get on the waiting list for samples of the new material!

Impact Acoustic Highlight Reel:

Thanks to everyone who braved the weather to stop by and see us! If you didn’t make it out but wanted to, please reach out. We’d love to see you, even if it’s virtually 😊

And of course, we’re here for any samples you need, stocked in the US, and our friendly Habitat Matter team is here for technical or pricing questions you might have.

So, what next?

From sustainable practices to flexible workspaces, and wellness-focused design, Neocon 2023 showcased the continuous innovation happening in commercial design. Organizations must continue to adapt to new work paradigms and prioritize employee well-being, they can’t pretend that the old way still works. We’ll do our part by bringing you the best and most innovative acoustic products in the world, so you can design healthier habitats out of even better materials.