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What’s Next in Product Design? NeoCon Gives a Sneak Peek

West Elm Workspace with Inscape - Conduit System. Image © West Elm.

Each year, thousands of architects, designers and executives descend upon NeoCon for a first look at new products and prototypes, and to check out the latest commercial interiors trends for a preview of where the industry is headed.

This past week, Gensler’s Product Design practice debuted several new products at NeoCon 2017, which took place June 12-14 at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago. In total, Gensler collaborated on 11 new products that launched in Chicago ranging from textiles to lounge seating and sit/stand desks. We are excited to announce that a number of products were recognized with Contract magazine’s Best of NeoCon awards and Interior Design’s 2017 HiP Awards.

As the workplace continues to shift to reflect the diversity of ways people work and the lines between live, work and play increasingly blur, these products address end users’ changing needs—from acoustic comfort to on-demand privacy and modular systems that give workers more control over their space.

West Elm Workspace with Inscape - Conduit System

The Conduit System, design in collaboration with West Elm Workspace with Inscape, harnesses Gensler’s series of global workplace surveys, including the 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey and West Elm Workspace’s own research and market expertise to meet the needs of the changing workplace ecology.

Gensler’s Workplace Surveys found that individual control of one’s workspace—no matter how open—is a key contributor to employee satisfaction, performance and innovation. Concurrently, West Elm Workspace’s research identified the need to address the total well-being of today’s office employee, creating environments and product solutions that benefit the worker’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being.

The design team focused on three key takeaways from the 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey to inform technical design questions that were raised throughout the development cycle:

  1. Quieting the noise: Mitigating audio/visual noise in the open office

    Conduit embraces spaces that create zones for collaborative, as well as concentrated, heads down work. A reference back to the classic library carrel, Conduit has introduced both integrated and freestanding carrels in a variety of sizes to allow for maximum planning flexibility. The individual sized carrels offer individuals respite from many of the issues experienced in the open office, while the double wide carrels allow two individuals to quietly collaborate among their peers.

  2. Access to power and data

    The wholly integrated Power Wall helps create workspaces untethered from fixed power alternatives, while a robust electrical connection under the work surface minimizes the number of cords running to the wall from the desk. Conduit also has a table top mounted power solution that allows for easy, quick connect for the user’s personal devices.

  3. Customization/flexibility/personalization

    One of Conduit’s greatest strengths is in the simplicity of design. By decreasing the number of parts and maximizing how it can be configured, Conduit allows businesses to design branching systems with versatile work zones, while allowing them to reconfigure the same product suite into traditional benching layouts with ease. The top of the rail uses a universal mount system that allows the Conduit to grow and change over time with the addition of accessories such as privacy panels, shelves, lighting and coat racks, while the side of the Top Rail accepts tables and carrels, as well as organization and storage accessories. With the addition of height adjustable work surfaces, the system can satisfy any range of planning needs.

With a subtle nod to the Post-Modern revival, Conduit uses a unique combination of mixed materials to offer choice in a variety of styles and design aesthetics—from brass detailing to a spectrum of fabrics, textiles and work surfaces in laminate and veneer.

Conduit System was named an Interior Design HiP Honoree in Workplace: Systems and won a Gold in Furniture Systems and Silver in Furniture Benching in Contract’s Best of NeoCon Awards.

Halcon HALO

The need for adaptive furniture is another trend emerging at NeoCon 2017. Gensler debuted HALO from Halcon, a conference furniture that brings innovation and elegance to corporate meeting spaces. Conference tables are encircled by the HALO edge, providing connectivity and unique protection with revolutionary impact-resistance. Any chair striking the table edge is defended from damage by HALO’s perimeter profile. Table surfaces are equally protected, remaining pure in material and form with power and data cleanly integrated into the HALO edge.

HALO for Halcon. Image: Halcon.

Modern sideboard storage and bench options complement HALO tables and can be configured to meet any need. Modules accommodate refrigeration, cutlery, waste bins, glassware and more. Mix-and-match components create a solution tailored to unique meeting spaces.

Halcon – Halo Conference Furniture won Contract’s Best of Competition and Gold in the Conference Room Furniture category.

PRFM Fabric with Carnegie

Another trend at NeoCon: the focus on wellness, and the influence of hospitality spaces continues to expand. As activity and wellness are being integrated into creative spaces for live, work and play, everyday spaces are increasingly being designed to encourage collaboration, connectivity and even competition.

To bring that essence of movement and performance materials into a textile collection for furniture, Gensler partnered with Carnegie to introduce PFRM, an energetic upholstery collection that draws its inspiration from the strength, durability and boldness of modern athletic apparel. The eight-pattern collection aims to deliver function, comfort and durability through high-performance material technology. PFRM translates the spirit of sport activities and clothing to an upholstery collection that feels fresh, youthful and athletic. The designs are offered in a range of colors varying from energetic brights to soothing monochromes, with a tactile nature. The collection incorporates cutting edge fiber, knit and lamination technologies. PRFM won Contract’s Innovation Award in the Textile: Upholstery category.

PRFM Fabric with Carnegie. Image: Carnegie.

If you have further questions about these products or Gensler's Product Design services, please contact Daniel Stromborg.

Daniel Stromborg joined Gensler in 2014 as the Southwest Region's director of Product Design. He is now a global practice area leader, having applied his insights and industry experience to inspire design teams to translate Gensler’s voice and vision into tangible products for workplace and lifestyle environments. He previously led design teams on projects with Knoll, Herman Miller, OXO, Boeing, Elizabeth Arden, RealD and Crate & Barrel. Daniel has been honored with several industry and peer awards, including “Best of NeoCon.” He studied Interior Architecture at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Environmental Design at The Art Center of Design in Pasadena. Contact him at Daniel_Stromborg@gensler.com.