Among the benefits of an Interior Design degree at Siba is an opportunity every year to join students, alumni, and instructors on a trip to NeoCon – the premierMidwestern Interior Design tradeshow featuring far more than just industry developments. Participants interact with vendors, get introduced to the latest top-of-the-line materials and cutting-edge technology, and network with peers and potential employers.
We talked to Siba Department Head, Janelle Schrumpf, and some Siba interior design students to get their feedback on this year’s event. Here are some of their observations:
Integrated Technology is Everywhere!
Demand for high-tech integrated design in both residential and commercial spaces continues to grow in the industry. One of the Neocon highlights for Siba students this year was an off-site visit to DIRRT, a global leader in industrialized construction for interior spaces, where they were treated to a presentation of brand-new technology using VR (Virtual Reality). DIRRT specializes in adaptable, innovative design using VR and augmented reality space planning that allows clients to explore multiple options with the ability to visualize how each one aligns with their design preferences and functional requirements.
Technology is used seamlessly not just in presentation techniques, but in DIRRT designs as well. It’s frequently integrated in the build itself; think smart sensors, lighting that automatically adjusts when someone enters a room, and climate controls that prioritize energy efficiency, comfort, and convenience.
Schrumpf emphasized to her students the importance of understanding these innovations in their client consults, “Designers today need to be able to offer a number of technological solutions for the home, office, healthcare, and hospitality settings. Consumers may not even be aware of the full breadth of integrations available, so visits like this are critical for student designers to stay competitive in the industry.”
Trending Color: Shades of Terracotta
Strolling through Merchandise Mart where NeoCon is hosted each year, students couldn’t ignore the ubiquitous use of a very trendy color: terracotta. According to Schrumpf, this rich, earthy, reddish-brown hue evokes a sense of timelessness and authenticity, while also being a very current choice for contemporary designs seeking to embrace natural elements. The color’s versatility allows it to effortlessly complement a wide range of interior styles, from rustic and bohemian to modern and minimalist.
Students also noticed that vibrant colors are replacing the “millennial grays” and neutral palettes that dominated the last decade. Second-year student Brittany Dirnberger observed, “Color is making its way back in and we are starting to see bright, fun shades instead of all neutrals.”
Top Material: Metal
Schrumpf notes that metal is also having a moment. Vendors and designers are using a variety of elements including copper, brass, gold, silver, and iron. Whether it’s through statement light fixtures, furniture, or intricate decorative elements, metals provide interesting texture and contrast. And their versatility allows them to be effortlessly incorporated into a variety of design styles. Students at NeoCon noted the way the use of metals contrasted with other materials such as wood, marble, and other natural elements – which brings us to another trend: “biophilic” design, a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment
Greenery-infused living walls are increasingly in demand – particularly in office designs. According to Schrumpf, “Biophilic design continues to be a popular way for architects and designers to create harmonious environments that foster well-being for their occupants.” NeoCon attendees saw it used in lush indoor gardens, as well as strategically placed potted plants and hanging vines. Their aesthetic appeal aside, plants offer numerous health benefits, purifying the air and reducing stress levels. With employers looking to make workspaces more enjoyable and environmentally-stimulating in this post-Covid era, plants showcase a celebration of nature and an appreciation for sustainable, mindful living.
Craftsmanship is King
Central this year to NeoCon, as well as to this latest generation of designers, are responsibly sourced products and high-end craftsmanship. Students visited Haworth Design Lab, where they watched as members of the collaborative created custom furniture pieces. The Design Lab kicked off at Art Basel 2022 with a collection of artists that bring new ideas, design diversity and desirability through partnerships to advance the industry. Students watched as these artisans used woven materials and tufted chairs in live, interactive exhibits. Schrumpf says this trend speaks to clients of all backgrounds, “Consumers are demanding that manufacturers responsibly source their materials. This isn’t just a trend—it’s a public awareness that isn’t going away anytime soon. People want their goods to be ethically, thoughtfully, sustainably and artistically made.”
Curves and Circles Dominate
Curves are having their moment. According to student attendee Ella Mendenhall, “There are so many trends that I saw repeated throughout different showrooms. There were lots of curved lines and rounded edges, whether that was in furniture, lighting, or casework.” Schrumpf credits this trend with creating a sense of softness and visual flow within spaces. In office showrooms, it created a sense of inclusivity, particularly in meeting and co-working spaces.
Students also saw this trend during a visit to Knoll – a highlight of their trip to Chicago. Knoll, an icon among modern furniture designers, has played an historic role in the use of curves with the Saarinen Tulip Collection. This collection, introduced in the 1950’s, features dining tables, side tables, and chairs with graceful, sculptural curves that eliminate the need for four legs, creating an elegant and visually light appearance. The use of curves continues today in Knoll’s modern designs, which students were able to soak in during their trip.
While the annual trip to NeoCon is popular among students in Siba’s Interior Design program for all its many sources of inspiration, students are able to make valuable connections with their peers and industry professionals. Mendenhall summarizes it this way, “This trip made me excited for my future in this field and it made me feel a sense of belonging. It was the moment I realized I was right where I was supposed to be and that I was on my way to becoming a designer. It was truly a special trip.”
We’re so happy students were able to see so much during their visit this year, and for the relationships they were able to develop!