Tales from the trade show floor: NeoCon East
On Wednesday I had the chance to attend NeoCon East, the “Premier Design Exposition for Commercial Interiors on the East Coast” in Baltimore, MD. I had fun checking out options for the library renovation, seeing design-y things, and experiencing my first non-library exhibit hall. Below are some observations and a few of my favorite things.
Library exhibit hall vs. design expo
- There were definitely more men at NeoCon than I’ve seen at ALA/library conferences. The age demographic there seemed to skew younger as well (although I’m not awesome at guessing ages). Most booths had both male and female representatives available to talk to customers and walk them through the floor.
- I almost hesitate to say this because I don’t want to offend anyone, but the NeoCon attendees were dressed a lot nicer than people I have seen at ALA/library conferences. I am generalizing here (on both sides) but I picked up on it right away. Maybe the designers/design students at NeoCon are more concerned with their visual aesthetic than librarians. There were also a hell of a lot more women in stilettos and other fancy shoes. Lots of suits. Lots of black.
- At four PM, free booze magically appeared. Everywhere! I saw a keg on the exhibit hall floor and multiple tables of bottled beer and wine. I got carded (what the what!) when I grabbed a glass. It was pretty cool – once people started drinking, everyone was sitting in the different pieces of furniture talking and hanging out. It was almost like the “sales pitch” was over and everyone was just having a good time. You could really tell which seating options worked for social atmospheres – those were the ones people gravitated towards.
- The NeoCon swag was pretty similar to ALA/library conferences. Lots of exhibitors had freebies – tote bags galore, stress balls, plastic watches, iPad covers, pens, candy, lip balm, etc. I didn’t see as many crazed people running around collecting ten of everything. People seemed a bit more reserved. That said, the one giveaway I really did want (a sweet canvas Herman Miller bag) ran out before I could get one. Luckily, our HM rep is awesome and is going to mail me one!
These are a few of my favorite things
Integra Bay Chair – My colleagues and I loved this seating option. It comes in 4 different seat widths and the tablet arm holds 300 pounds (their promo materials show someone standing on it!). You can add upholstered or wood arms, but I enjoyed the armless version. It’s fairly easy to push around and the cup holder feature is nice because it doesn’t eat up your limited tablet space (plus, you won’t accidentally knock your coffee over onto your laptop). I also really like the contrasting fabrics in this floor model. The pattern and solid combination seems to highlight the shape and accentuate the curves in this more fluid/free-form chair. I can see us incorporating some of these throughout our new library to offer a diversity of seating options for students. Maybe in bright accent colors?
Kimball Fit – Oh. My. Last week I was reviewing the furniture drawings for my workspace in the new library and our furniture supplier showed me the Kimball Fit “sling lounge” as a potential option (we also looked at the Herman Miller Tato, Tatino, Tatone and the Fatboy original beanbag). I’m looking for some fun pieces to use in my co-working space for creative group brainstorming sessions with library student employees/staff. I was really looking forward to testing a Fit at NeoCon and was getting bummed out as we walked through and didn’t see any. Then, at the same time, my colleague Greg and I spotted three of them. We pointed, looked at each other with glee, and headed over to test them out. You can probably tell from the huge smile on my face – I loved it! It was awkward sitting down the first time because you’re not quite sure it will hold you, but the material is stretchy and supportive. It feels almost like you are settling back into a hammock, really fun. Lightweight, can nest together for storage, and as we were leaving, we even saw two people sitting in one together! They do have a larger footprint, but I certainly think I could squeeze one of these into my new workspace!
Leland International – This was a really fun booth and I saw two of my favorite pieces there, the Ebb Bench (hollow) and the Brit Bench (blue). You can use connectors for both of them to hook up multiple pieces in different shapes, but I honestly liked them both as single, standalone pieces. The Ebb bench is very minimalist and modern. It would be great for hallways and the representative said they have done some in airports (although then they have to cap the ends). You can get it entirely upholstered, in wood veneer, or in wood veneer with upholstered “pads” (my fav). I was thinking this would work well in the new juvenile/curriculum center section, although we might have an issue with small children trying to climb inside. The Brit bench was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I think it would be perfect for the library entryway, where we are putting in a media wall with digital signage and inspirational quotes. This type of sculptural bench doesn’t lend itself to long waits, which is fine because it will be somewhat drafty in the entryway. At the same time, it provides a perfect spot to rest with your bags to meet someone before heading into the library. I love the three “prongs” too, it gives the bench a more social feel because you’re facing someone else any way you sit on it.
izzy+ Dewey 6-Top Table – I mean, it’s a whiteboard-topped table, what more can I say? Awesome.
I took a bunch of other photos at the show which you can see on my Flickr page. Leave a comment here or there and let me know which items you love, hate, could envision in libraries. Have any of you been to a trade show/exhibit floor beyond library conferences? Did you enjoy it? What was different and what was similar?
* A big thanks to Supply Source for inviting us to and escorting us around NeoCon!*