Every year I look forward to NeoCon, the largest event of the year for the commercial design and architectural industry. Thousands of design professionals from all over the world descend on Chicago’s Merchandise Mart to review products and explore innovative design trends.
Walking through the seemingly endless sea of beautiful products, one can’t help but notice a few themes throughout. Truthfully, many of this year’s themes were consistent with years past, such as biophilic design, “resimercial” furniture, and seamless technology integration. However, I also noticed a deepening appreciation and more widespread popularity for the minimalist inspired Scandinavian design, and with that, hand crafted materials.
It used to be that the first thing that came to mind for people who heard “Scandinavian Design” was Ikea. While they may have been the primary source a few years ago, it certainly is not the case anymore. This minimalist design aesthetic is definitely here to stay. People are increasingly gravitating towards not just the visual simplicity, but the purity of the process often associated with these elements.
With shifting generational values, the desire for quality products and supporting craftsmanship is outweighing the temptation of merely wanting the lowest price. As a result, we’ve seen more and more large furniture companies acquiring smaller, Scandinavian ones in order to offer people what they’re looking for—a clean lined, hand crafted product. For example, Knoll recently acquired Copenhagen-based Muuto, Herman Miller picked up Danish furniture company Hay, and Allsteel teamed with Normann Copenhagen. Consumers are moving away from the department store feel and running fast towards makers markets. They want their products to not just feel like one of the thousands of pieces that came off an assembly line in a warehouse, but to have a story. They want to know who designed or made their pieces and what rich, natural, enduring materials they used. They want beautiful environments while supporting small business craftsmanship. And, as an added plus, no assembly instructions or pictures required.
As design continues to evolve, it continues to shape our lives. That’s part of why I love my industry—design does matter. As a Designer, I get to choose products that have more value than just visual appeal. I love the shift of the “Makers Movement” and trying to incorporate handmade and even local products into my designs where I can. For example, while designing several areas of the new Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks, I chose to use Scathain, a local manufacturer in Milwaukee’s 5th Ward for various metalwork pieces. We also used them to build tables on our Terrace taken directly from timbers in our historic building. Other Milwaukee artists and manufacturers we love using include brother duo Misewell, Design Fugitives formed by UW-Milwaukee graduates, and Olson House, a local Interior Designer who opened a Scandinavian furniture and accessories store.
So what about you? What products, designers and trends are making you excited? Who are the “little guys” that you love?
Want to hear more? Follow me @JackieP_EUA