For six Siba Interior Design students, their latest learning experience happened in an entirely different city—Chicago. The group visited the famed Merchandise Mart for this year’s NeoCon event. Neocon is an annual trade show that touts itself as, “the commercial design industry’s launch pad for innovation.” But students discovered much more than just innovation this year.
In just two days at NeoCon, students explored more than 500 exhibitors and a huge variety of seminars to expand their knowledge and inspire their designs. Among the showrooms they visited was Holly Hunt, where the group met designer Tom Stringer who was autographing copies of his latest book.
Students also visited exhibits for True Residential (a high-end appliance company based in St. Louis), Koehler, and Herman Miller—a showroom focused on trends in healthcare design. They visited fabric showrooms for Robert Allen, Schumacher, and Romo as well; collecting fabrics and wall coverings to inspire upcoming projects.
This access to industry leaders and innovators is a huge advantage to students both now and after they graduate. As Siba 3rd year student Amanda Kinney explains, “Inspiration is such a huge part of design. I personally think attending these types of events (and staying as current as possible with new products) is crucial to being a good designer. You can have a wonderful vision, but if you’re limited to what you already know, you can only do so much.”
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was a visit to DIRTT’s exhibition space. DIRTT is a Chicago-based, sustainable design company that offers its clients the opportunity to tour and change designs in virtual reality. The exhibit was something new and exciting for students like Kinney, who found the experience very worthwhile: “DIRTT is another company that I am always keeping up with. They create innovative solutions to commercial design (including healthcare), and each year they have products that I have never seen anywhere else.”
Guided by Siba instructors Janelle Schrumpf and Jamie Toon, students also visited the Chicago suburb of Oak Park where they explored the home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright and toured the surrounding neighborhood in which Wright had also designed homes.
Over the span of their three-day-trip, students explored both architectural historical design and the latest innovations in residential, commercial, healthcare, and children’s design. The best part? They go every year. In 2019, Siba students (and any alumni who wish to tag along) can take the short trip north to see what’s up and coming in the design world. Without a doubt, our students will be looking forward to it.