ThinkLab staff at NeoCon

Spotted! Top 10 Commercial Design Trends at NeoCon 2022

NeoCon 2022 was back to its usual mid-June date after 2020’s show was postponed to October 2021. Attendee numbers crept back up, clocking in at around 70 percent of what they were in 2019 (however, the elevators were 100 percent as crowded).

A couple of key changes this year included a new Best of NeoCon award for Business Innovation. A Fast Company article (titled “Why an empty booth was my favorite exhibit at this year’s NeoCon trade show”) captured the spirit of this new category and highlighted one of its winners, Reseat. Another shift that our Trendspotters reported was balancing the logistics of visiting off-site showrooms at the new Fulton Market development with their already-packed touring schedule in and around theMART.

ThinkLab Trendspotters were at it again this year—for the second time, they were scoping the show, helping those on-site prioritize what to see, and bringing the “hallway conversations” to the virtual attendees. But what’s especially exciting about this program is that it gives an unfiltered view of the show through the eyes of a powerful group of specifiers, and this year’s group was even more diverse—both in their level within their firms and their vertical focus—for an even richer perspective.

Check out this article to meet our 2022 Trendspotters and learn what they hoped to see and experience going into the show. Here’s a roundup of the top 10 trends that our Trendspotters identified:

Design Trend #1: Gen Z Cozy

What they saw: Our Trendspotters affectionately coined the phrase “Gen Z Cozy” to describe the visual vibe spotted throughout the show. They noted big color, bold statements, and playful textures as predominant themes, as well as “unapologetically feminine” spaces (soft pink, anyone?)

Also spotted:

  • Dark and moody colors, with plenty of drama
  • Warm textures (think velvets and bouclé), giving a soft quality of touch and residential level of comfort
  • A celebration of woodgrains, mixing different tones in the same piece
  • A touch of nostalgia, with typewriters at KI and the re-release of the Frank Lloyd Wright desk at Steelcase

What we heard: “It’s bold, it’s a statement, it’s refreshing to see. It’s a celebration of something different.” — Matt Rebbe, Design Director, Interiors, AECOM, Chicago, IL

Where they saw it: HBF, Hightower, KI, MillerKnoll, Steelcase, Turf

Design Trend #2: Building Your Own Environment

ThinkLab staff at NeoCon
The ThinkLab team at NeoCon 2022.

What they saw: Return to the workplace has taken on a “build your own adventure”approach. User-adjustable is the name of the game. Also spotted:

  • A variety of personal storage in a range of sizes and levels of lockability and movability
  • A focus on user adjustability (vs. facilities changes) for individual workstation pods, occasional tables for collaborative areas, and even lighting

What we heard: “I liked seeing super-flexible spaces because they not only enabled users to customize to their needs—they also enable less waste in design changes down the line.” — Catherine O’Brien, Junior Designer, IA Interior Architects, Chicago, IL

Where they saw it: Allermuir|Senator, Allsteel (occasional tables and Rise), Davis (Cantina), Haworth (Echo Desk and Pergola), Hushoffice, Keilhauer, Kimball International, OFS, OneFlor USA, Steelcase (Eclipse ring light)

Design Trend #3: A Cross-Pollination of Vertical Markets

What they saw: While the NeoCon of the past felt mainly geared towards workplace design, our Trendspotters were delighted to see touches of residential and hospitality make their way into the show. Hospitality teaches us about experience, and residential informs comfort and choice in the places that we work.

What we heard: “The hybrid workplace is nonbinary, meaning it’s not just home or office. The fluidity of space is critical, but also the seamlessness of the digital workplace. We should expand our thinking on where work happens.” — Erica Buss, Manager, Research & Information Services, Ankrom Moisan, Portland, OR

Where they saw it: Hightower, JSI

Design Trend #4: Untethered, Unobstructed Technology Integration

What they saw: Whether they were meeting in a conference room, working outside, or collaborating with a small group in a café, the Trendspotters reported a seamless tech experience beyond just powering up at their tables (though they were also impressed that those power connections were hidden away or achieved through wireless charging).

What we heard: “The location of power was tucked away and not in your face, not so obvious. It was elegant.” — Krystal Lucero, Senior Interior Design, E+M Interior Design, Austin, TX

Where they saw it: Artome, Enwork, Haworth, MAMAGREEN, Nucraft, Steelcase

Click here to continue reading Top 10 Trends from NeoCon 2022.

Meredith Campbell is a member of the Research & Content Development team for ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW Design Group. At ThinkLab, we combine SANDOW Media’s incredible reach to the architecture and design community through brands like Interior Design Media, Metropolis, Luxe, and Material Bank with proven market research techniques to uncover relevant trends and opportunities for the design industry. Join in to explore what’s next at