Although NeoCon 2017 is now behind us, so much of the visual stimuli stays with us for months. One thing I like to do every year before day-to-day responsibilities take over is to capture key trends that span all the tremendous showrooms, products and conversations. Here are five takeaways from the world’s leading commercial design trade show in Chicago:

Workplace connectivity is key.

While this can be interpreted as ensuring the Wi-Fi always works, it is more about how every product in every space must flow from one to another. Disjointed spaces create visual noise that negatively impact effectiveness, while connected and coordinated spaces inspire and help drive innovation. This means that products should work together in supporting both the visual goal and the physical employee usage. Transitions should be smooth and almost seamless with no sharp or hard breaks between spaces.

Variant Form carpet tile planks meet Lineate loose lay enhanced resilient tile.

Color and comfort own the workplace.

We owe a big thank you to the millennial generation. Their influence on comfortable and bright workspaces has made us all happier at work. They have grown up working together in groups to solve problems and are more apt to sit on couches or stadium seating to use their laptop than they are a desk or an office. They have helped drive the concept that workspaces don’t have to be the boring sets from Mad Men. Workspaces can be vibrant and effective. Color done just for color’s sake though doesn’t work – make sure to keep in mind the connectivity piece discussed earlier.

The Lichen Collection was inspired by groupings of multi-hued, multi-textured lichens from extreme climates.

Responsible design intricately intertwines sustainability, health and wellness.

More than ever designers are working diligently to provide honest, responsible spaces. This isn’t to say they are abandoning their design goals to achieve sustainable certificates, rather they are expecting manufacturers to deliver products that meet both their design intent and promote healthy spaces. Product transparency is key as highlighted by the increase in manufacturers showing Declare labels – an ingredients list similar to what is found on food packaging. The next evolutionary step in this path appears to be the creation of Living Products, whereas products are required to give back more than they take out. Good designers know we spend a lot of time indoors and want us to be visually inspired. Great designers want that time to not just be visually stunning but also be healthy and restorative.

An emphasis on product transparency can be seen with the increase of Declare labels and Living Product labels.

Open office design will remain the norm for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully the cold, hard world of benching is on the way out. Open offices though are here to stay, and designers are finding ways to achieve the benefits of open space (higher density, lower budgets, ease of co-working) while also meeting employee needs for comfort. Unique furniture, fixtures and flooring all play a part in the design aspect and can also help solve some of the issues that come from open office spaces – like acoustic distractions, aka noise. Make sure to ask your Account Executives how they can help solve your noise problem while still meeting the design intent.

This open-concept office space features Hybrid Media ERT, previewed at NeoCon 2017.

Technology to the rescue.

I continue to be amazed at the technological solutions shown at NeoCon. I’d also challenge that the advancements can’t come fast enough as design complexity is increasing, and according to top designers, lead times are getting shorter. We have to remember that the end user who pays the bills generally doesn’t build new spaces frequently and their ability to visualize concepts may not be the same as ours. Use these new rendering and visualization technology tools to help your end user “see” their space, and I’m confident you will establish yourself as their go-to partner.

Visual Interactive Studio (VIS)

VIS provides 2D floor perspectives, 3D room scenes, and hi-res renderings of a designer’s unique flooring creations.

Which other shifts and movements did you notice this year? Feel free to reach out to me directly – I would love to hear your thoughts around NeoCon, workplace design, market trends – or even a simple hello!

Mark Oliver, Vice President of Workplace and Retail Segments

Using his expertise in identifying product portfolio gaps and finding creative solutions for growth, Mark works with various teams at Mohawk to better understand and react to shifting trends in workplace and retail. Since joining Mohawk in 2010, he has managed the carpet tile, woven and aviation businesses for the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, launching some of the latest innovations and solutions in those businesses. Mark previously held positions in product development and product management at Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, Reebok and The Home Depot. Whether helping to introduce handbags, hardware or flooring, Mark has worked to bring innovative products to market that have shifted brands’ customer perception and become a foundation, and even a springboard, for growth.