The designers at Shaw have been looking to all forms of communication for inspiration—apt In this time of social distancing and limited interaction. Two new collections, Shifting Fields and Dialogue, evoke conversations that are both literal and figurative. “Both of these collections are about creating flexible spaces that encourage dialogue and human interaction,” said Reesie Duncan, vice president of global design for Shaw Contract.

The concept of discourse means more than just thinking about face‐to‐face conversations. It is also about our movement within the spaces we work and play in. “We’ve been thinking about all of the different ways we are communicating and sharing dialogue, and how that translates into the built environment,” said Ashley Olson, design director at Shaw Contract Workplace Studio.

The exploration of the different forms of communication from written to nonverbal was used to create unique patterns. “We’re really playing with embossed effects and pile heights, and how we can layer them,” said Duncan. Raised surfaces mimic the look of Morse code and Braille, bringing added textural interest to the flooring.

As people continue to want the comforts of home in commercial spaces, materials and textures will continue to be important, but used in a quieter way than before. Seamless transitions from one area to another will contribute to our sense of contentment. ”I think more and more people want to go through a space without any kind of harsh changes, whether it is pattern, height, or texture. I think that’s for both hard and soft surface,” Duncan added.

Indeed, as companies and employees alike begin to think about how the coronavirus pandemic will transform our workplaces and how we function in them, flooring will be a key component. “People are going to want to connect to each other, but they are also going to want some physical spaces that are separate. In the workplace specifically, we’re going to have to think about how we redefine the workstation area, and the floor can play a role in creating social cues,” noted Duncan.

Flooring can also assist us with wayfinding and keeping just enough distance when we get back to the office and our 9‐to‐5 schedules. “Our floor tiles are divisible by six, and I am thinking about the six‐foot space that we’re going to need to maintain when we return to the workplace. With the floor, there’s a real opportunity to communicate that distance and how you can respect that space,” Olson said.

As concerns about health and wellness come to the forefront, the Creating Space collection helps to foster a sense of wellness. “We have a calming color palette, most neutrals and a few energizing pops of color. Patterns are really soft and calming, in a variety of different scales. We took a really mindful approach in the process of developing this collection,” Olson adds.

Whether we are looking at well‐being or new social norms, the Shaw team is optimistic that new products can help us all successfully negotiate our new normal. “I think we’re really going to focus on flexibility and choice, and how we can configure the flooring to support that,” Duncan said.​

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