3 Creative Collaborations Driving the Business of Design

For 50 years NeoCon has been influencing workplace design through new product introductions. This year saw many new and strategic partnerships.

By Diana Mosher

For 50 years NeoCon has been influencing workplace design through new product introductions and thought leadership about how the workplace should perform and what it should look like. The 1930s Merchandise Mart building in Chicago hosts this annual exposition where corporate real estate executives, interior designers and architects intersect. They come from different disciplines, but all are in search of Inspiration for upcoming projects and new ideas that will enhance the employee experience while retaining talent and driving productivity.

As manufacturers compete for their piece of these renovation and interior construction budgets, they frequently team up with talent from outside the commercial interiors space. This year saw many new and strategic creative collaborations.

Moire Collection, Pure Wavelength Modular Tile

Flooring manufacturer Mannington Commercial sought out Dallas-based installation artist Gabriel Dawe due to his innovative work with embroidery thread. The unveiling of The Moiré Collection of broadloom and modular floor coverings in Chicago represents the artist’s first foray into product design.

Originally from Mexico City, Dawe creates site-specific installations that explore the connection between fashion and architecture, and how they relate to the human need for shelter in all its shapes and forms. His work is centered in the exploration of textiles, aiming to examine the complicated construction of gender and identity in his native Mexico and attempting to subvert the notions of masculinity and machismo prevalent in the present day.

Dawe’s work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries in the United States, Canada and Europe. Mannington also commissioned Dawe to create an installation titled Plexus C22 for NeoCon, which is currently on view through September at the Merchandise Mart.

Watch a video of Gabriel Dawe’s NeoCon installation.  

Studio TK Crosses the Pond

At the heart of every highly functioning organization is a collaborative culture that enables teams to work together when they want to—but also find a quiet spot away from the action. This requires lightweight furniture that employees can easily move from place to place throughout the day. Studio TK recently crossed the pond to collaborate with two Dutch design powerhouses: Artifort, a 128-year-old modern furniture company and their associate Feiz Design Studio.

Studio TK

It’s a win-win. For Studio TK, the partnership adds interesting new depth and breadth of product selection (aka “edgy”) and renowned international designers to the existing Studio TK collection. Meanwhile, Artifort is eager to expand their distribution into North America. Studio TK will not only be marketing, selling and distributing their products here, but also building those products in North Carolina with eight weeks lead time—a much more competitive selling proposition than building product in Europe and shipping it across the Atlantic.

Cesto (Spanish for “basket”) was one of several new collections shown by the prolific Studio TK in their NeoCon showroom. Cesto is an interactive collection of seating and table elements designed by Khodi Feiz for Studio TK. For the planned or impromptu, Cesto is a mobile collection of seating and occasional tables that offers a nimble approach to social gatherings in the office.

Humanscale Eyes the C-Suite

Every NeoCon sees a new crop of seating introductions as brands wrestle for market share. Ergonomic furniture manufacturer Humanscale enjoys a leadership position for a variety of reasons including its high-performance chairs. With a weight-compensating recline, they accommodate each unique sitter by automatically adjusting to his or her weight.

Humanscale Summa

Now this same level of comfort can be experienced in the boardroom. Summa is the stylish result of a design collaboration with world-renowned architecture firm Gensler. It’s also one of Humanscale’s first entries into the C-Suite landscape.

“Comfort and the ability to move freely are important everywhere in an office—including the boardroom,” says Humanscale founder and CEO Robert King. “We are thrilled to offer a simple and elegant executive chair that elevates the sitting experience.”

Summa features a sleek, clean aesthetic from every angle. The chair’s back is available in three different materials with a variety of colorways including several rich wood finishes or a modern lacquer look. In keeping with Humanscale’s mission to use Red List-free materials, Summa’s cylinder base utilizes environmentally neutral Chrome 3 and not Red-Listed Chrome 6, which can pose health risks during the manufacturing process.