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Connection. Collaboration. Cross-Pollination.

Posted June 13, 2012 in Classes & Presentations

After the hustle and bustle of Monday at NeoCon, we returned to the Merchandise Mart on Wednesday. Immediately we noticed that things were a bit calmer, but the showrooms were still abuzz.

Students NeoCon

We had the great pleasure of a private tour of the newly designed Haworth showroom, by Ray Kennedy, Director of North America Marketing and members of the Haworth NeoCon team. 

Ray Kennedy

Haworth recently underwent a brand refresh, keeping their typeface, but updating the colors and incorporating the tangram artwork used in the past. The showroom is a remarkable example of brand integration into an environment, melding past, present and future elements to strengthen their identity. 

Haworth showroom sign

The brand colors, red, black, white and gray are visible throughout the space, from the carpeting on the floor, to the paint on the non-movable walls.

A solid wall was removed and floor to ceiling glass was installed, so Haworth products are now more visible to passers-by. Within the showroom, glass “jewel boxes” showcase Haworth designs, both new and classic.

Haworth Jewel Boxes

Throughout the showroom, it was apparent that collaboration was the focus. As we learned yesterday, this holistic approach is the key to creating new and innovative designs. No more cubicle farms; instead furniture and fixtures are easily transformed to allow people to work together.

Integrated Palette

Tom DeBoer, Product Manager – Seating, showed us the new Lively™ chair launched at NeoCon. Adjustable in multiple ways, Lively is available in a variety of color and fabric combinations. “Many designers use chairs to add or change color to an office environment. It’s simple, easy and relatively inexpensive,” he explained. But color and function aren’t all that makes Lively lively. Individual offices are becoming smaller as organizations carve out collaboration and meeting spaces. Big office chairs take up too much space. Lively has thinner lines, so it takes up less real estate, but it can easily support up to 300 pounds. 

Lively Chair

Kennedy explained how Haworth, in essence, turned the HVAC system upside-down in the showroom. Ventilation was located in the ceiling, which was inefficient and expensive. After the showroom makeover, it is now running through under the Access Floor™ panels. When paired with Movable Walls, reconfiguring spaces is easier than before.

Access Floor Panel

One student asked a very perceptive question: How do we maintain sustainability in a workplace where technology is rapidly changing? What can we offer the marketplace that reflects the changing way people are working, both in and out of the office place? Haworth’s answer is Workware, a software program that integrates products, including monitor placement, user connectivity (power and data options) and user control. Once installed, it allows 100 people to wirelessly share data, drawings, spreadsheets and more in real time. Only software needs to be updated, not equipment, and because it operates wirelessly, miles and miles of cable are eliminated.

Big thanks to Kennedy and the 200+ Haworth employees who work nearly year-round to put the showroom together.


Then it was time for the last keynote speaker of NeoCon: Ian Schrager, hotelier, entrepreneur and real estate developer. Originally, he gained fame as co-owner and co-founder of Studio 54, but he was at NeoCon to speak to us about creating the boutique hotel genre and his newest venture, which all of Chicago is watching: transforming the iconic Ambassador East Hotel and its legendary Pump Room into PUBLIC Chicago, a new breed of hotel that offers comfort with complete functionality, at a tremendous value.

Schrager talked about his past projects and how the events happening in his life at the time of each one’s conception influenced his design. It was a slideshow that was a feast for the eyes, and interior designers in the room were murmuring their approval.

Then it was back to the Mart for our students who returned to study individual showrooms, speak with company representatives, and more closely examine product in order to complete their written assessment. A great end to another successful NeoCon, but not the end of the class!


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