NeoCon celebrates 50 years of office design

CHICAGO -- What does the office of the future look like? An insider look at the future can be found at NeoCon, June 11 – 13, the world’s largest event for the commercial interiors industry.

For half a century, the annual event, held at The Mart in Chicago, has served as a launchpad for innovations that have influenced how we live and work.

In honor of the milestone, NeoCon produced a retrospective highlighting major movements, milestones and products launched over the event’s five decades. When NeoCon started back in 1969, the U.S. office furniture industry was roughly $830 million. In 2017, it was estimated at $13.4 billion. ( U.S. Dept of Commerce, Bureau of the Census and BIFMA).

NeoCon launched at a crucial point in commercial design history. By the late 60s office-centric design had arrived, and with it, an obvious need for industry standards and uniformity.

The event shined a light on these issues and spawned professional  associations, such as American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and  Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) , that continue to help regulate, promote, and support contract furniture and the inter ior design community

The energy crisis suffered by industrial countries in the 1970s led to discussions on the importance of conservation in design. Likewise, the advent of computers in the 1980s precipitated a design overhaul and a subsequent focus on ergonomics and intuitive design. In every case, NeoCon has been the definitive  platform for innovative products, new ideas, influential voices, and a vital meeting place  for the industry. As the decades progressed, versatility, inclusivity, and corporate responsibility took precedence in design.

Wellness, social consciousness, and a search for work/life balance have become the norm, along with the mobile worker and offices designed for comfort. Customization, materiality, and uniqueness now take priority over standard commercial space solutions.

Looking ahead, workplace design will continue to evolve, even as big data and smart technologies drive new modes of office planning. Human well-being is emerging as a new benchmark for design, as is inclusivity for people of all abilities, genders, and ages. See

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About the author
Karl Forth

Karl D. Forth is online editor for CCI Media. He also writes news and feature stories in FDMC Magazine, in addition to newsletters and custom publishing projects. He is also involved in event organization, and compiles the annual FDM 300 list of industry leaders. He can be reached at [email protected].