The 46th edition of NeoCon, held June 9 to 11 at Chicago's Merchandise Mart was a resounding success, according to show officials.

NeoCon delivered a fully immersive commercial design experience that went above and beyond, illuminating crossindustry societal, economic and psychological trends. With attendance up 20%, according to show officials, the halls of Merchandise Mart were buzzing with specifiers, facility managers, manufacturers, clients and media from across North America and the globe. Close to 50,000 industry professionals gathered to see the latest product introductions for commercial design, to network with industry peers and to take advantage of the line-up of keynote and educational offerings.

According to Byron Morton, vice president, leasing, “This year’s show really brought out the best the industry has to offer. From cutting edge technology to a complete re-imagination of traditional office environments, innovation was at the forefront. Businesses, large and small, get the importance of design and the attendance at NeoCon 2014 is a testament to that. Our permanent and temporary exhibitors responded to the uptick in the economy with creative solutions for key vertical markets from office to education, hospitality and healthcare. Solutions on display at NeoCon focused on employee well-being as well productivity.” 

Susan McCullough, senior vice president, MMPI, added, “As we are the largest commercial design trade show in North America, we have the unique ability to bring people together across multiple markets. From designers and architects to manufacturers to end users, NeoCon connects people in a way that no other show can. It was exciting to see that many of the firms were sending large design teams once again. We were also pleased with attendee reception to the show’s new initiatives from improved signage and digital navigational tools, to the re-organization of the 7th and 8th floors.” 

Keynote sessions were all full-houses as the show’s program resonated with attendees from all commercial markets. Highlights included designer Todd Bracher, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, architect Adrian Smith and Tom Eich, the CTO at IDEO. In addition, the show offered an array of CEU-accredited seminars for interior designers, architects, LEED professionals, lighting and healthcare designers. Special events, awards programs and cocktails rounded out the dynamic experience this year. 

Both exhibitors and attendees expressed their satisfaction at this year’s turnout, noting the show’s increased size and presence on both a national and international level. 

“The show this year has been really encouraging for us, especially because it lets us reach people outside of our traditional market," said Brad Karl, director of marketing for Norix. "The interest this year is definitely up and engaging, diverse groups of people have stopped by our booth. It feels like we’re gaining momentum and really getting the trends right.”

Long-term exhibitors agreed that the show’s growth in recent years has been positive. Stephanie Forsythe, director and designer at Vancouver-based design studio, Molo, remarked, “We've been exhibiting for five years. We've had really great interactions with visitors and it's been a great chance for us to interact with people who haven't seen our products before. It's really worthwhile for us to be here.”

Haworth director of marketing, Raymond Kennedy said,  "More than ever, Neocon was a remarkable platform to demonstrate where we are taking the company in the coming months, from partnerships with world renowned design stars like Patricia Urquiola to international brands like Poltrona Frau, Cassina and Cappellini. Our showroom this year reinforced a fundamental concept we developed ten years ago – to create, collaborate and rejuvenate and we presented inspiring vignettes that articulate our brand and direction. We were extremely pleased with the show’s success and the reaction of end users and specifiers.” 

Also pleased to be a part of the show, Jim Keane, president and CEO of Steelcase, commented, “Steelcase was once again honored to have the opportunity to showcase our newest innovations alongside the multitude of respected design companies and professionals at NeoCon. This year we introduced Susan Cain Quiet Spaces by Steelcase; five unique applications tailored to unlock the potential of one-third to one-half of the population who are introverts and struggle in open plan environments.”

Bob King, Founder and CEO of Humanscale, a permanent showroom, summed up the experience, adding, “We think the show has been terrific. We've seen higher volume of folks than in the last couple years. There’s a lot of good energy.” 

Attendees echoed exhibitor sentiments, noting increased traffic and a great showing from exhibitors, who used the show to launch their innovative products and concepts.

Maria Melrose, the head of Weston International, commented, "I think there's a better mix of people from more markets this year than in years past. There were more people from the West Coast, as well as more international attendees. The vibe is very upbeat -people are saying that business is improving." Joelle Drury, a Project Manager at Unispace, agreed, stating, “I’ve noticed there have been more people this year and it’s really high energy. NeoCon is always a good resource for forecasting trends. You see it here first. It’s very helpful to be able to see what colors, finishes, etc. are trending.” 

"All in all, NeoCon 2014 showed that not only does “place matter,” the theme of this year’s show, but products and people do, as well. This was seen in every area of the event, from programming to product launches and everything in between," said MMPI's McCullough.

Next year’s show will take place June 15 to 17. 

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