In early June of 2012, I had the opportunity to experience one of the Interior Design world’s most well-known events: NeoCon. Housed in the landmark Merchandise Mart in the heart of Chicago, NeoCon showcases the best of interior design products from around the world. To give an idea of the vastness of NeoCon and the many products it exhibits, consider the size of the Merchandise Mart itself: with 25 floors that cover two city blocks on the riverfront in downtown Chicago, the Mart is a grand venue that is as beautiful as it is sizeable. A bastion of Art Deco style, the building is at once elegant and imposing. Polished marble and bronze abound, and one cannot help but marvel at the beauty of a by-gone era. Being a self-professed architecture nerd, the building alone might have occupied my interest for the entirety of the convention, but add to that the many chairs, wallcoverings, carpets, and fabrics on display, and you have a recipe for complete visual overload.
I began my first day at NeoCon by exploring the permanent showrooms of some of the biggest names in the industry: SteelCase, Herman Miller, Knoll, and Haworth, to name a few. These were furniture showrooms unlike any I had experienced before: glitzy, beautifully lit, and full of well-dressed designers eager to discover the latest items each company had to offer. Many of the best showrooms were occupied not only by great pieces of furniture but by a bounty of helpful sales reps to guide you through their products. Without their help, many of the individual characteristics that make each piece unique go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Some even took the time to offer career advice. Talk about going above and beyond!
On my second day, I decided to explore some of the smaller showrooms. The Antron showroom boasted a dizzying web of carpet fibers in dynamic formations centered on an open space which was occupied by a lively string quartet. Other showrooms employed performance artists and DJs to create an atmosphere of energy. Each exhibit had something to offer, from beautifully made furniture to a creative display of textiles to some very unique giveaways (teddy bears, anyone?).
On my third and final day in Chicago, I decided to take in a little Chicago scenery (and a little of the celebrated food scene). After all, for someone who is interested in architecture and design, scoping out gorgeous buildings is part of the experience. Even a dead camera battery could not slow me down.
This is my take on NeoCon: It was fun. It was interesting. It was (dare I admit it?) educational. For all of my enthusiasm, I did not fully appreciate the value of attending an event like NeoCon, especially as a student. It wasn’t until I returned to Luckett and Farley that I realized how much I had learned in my three days at the Mart. I now know the manufacturers of the products I am surrounded by each day. I even know the newest products, some of which aren’t yet available. In short, while NeoCon may be overwhelming as a student, it offers an unequaled experience with the design industry’s best products. Combined with my experience as an intern at Luckett and Farley, what I learned at NeoCon will carry with me throughout my career.